After drug arrest in Japan, Ness Wadia faces IPL heat

Ness Wadia’s sentencing had the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Tuesday considering the cancellation of his IPL accreditation. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

Businessman and co-owner of the Kings XI Punjab IPL team Ness Wadia (47) was recently convicted for a drug offence in Japan and sentenced to two years in prison. His sentence has, however, been suspended for five years by the Sapporo District Court, the Financial Times reported.

His sentencing had the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Tuesday considering the cancellation of his IPL accreditation and referring the matter to the cricket board's ombudsman to determine if further action is necessary, it is learnt. According to the Financial Times, Wadia was indicted on March 20 and spent an undisclosed period in detention before the court hearing. He was arrested at the New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, an island in northern Japan. The report stated that Wadia had flown to Japan to visit Niseko town in Hokkaido - a popular destination for skiers from across Asia.

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A spokesperson for the Wadia Group said Tuesday that Wadia was back in India. "The judgment is clear. It is a suspended sentence. Hence, it will not impact Ness Wadia in discharge of any of his responsibilities and he will continue to play the role that he has done hitherto, both within the Group and outside," the spokesperson said in a statement.

According to the Financial Times, a brief report by a local station of Japan's state broadcaster NHK stated that customs officers were led to Wadia by sniffer dogs and a search revealed that he had about 25 grams of "what appeared to be cannabis resin" in his pocket.

The report stated that a court official in Sapporo said that Wadia, the son of the Wadia Group chairman Nusli Wadia and the director of major units of the family group, admitted to possession, arguing that the drug was for personal use.

This is not Wadia's first run-in with the law. Actor and co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, Preity Zinta had accused Wadia of molestation and criminal intimidation at the Wankhede Stadium on May 30, 2014, during an IPL match and lodged an FIR at the Marine Drive police station. The Bombay High Court had quashed the FIR in October 2018.

Meanwhile, the incident has a section of the BCCI believing that Wadia's presence at the match venue will affect the IPL's brand value. "Since he is an owner, the cameras will be on him. The IPL image will take a beating because of the case against him," said a BCCI official.