Row over Sushma help to Lalit Modi for travel

Minister took UK MP's aid to get documents

Row over Sushma help to Lalit Modi for travel

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj landed in trouble on Sunday following a report that accused her of influencing British authorities and Labour MP Keith Vaz to provide travel documents to fugitive former IPL chairman Lalit Modi.

The controversy started after British media, based on a leaked email, reported that Sushma had spoken to High Commissioner to India James Bevan and Indian-origin parliamentarian Keith Vaz to push Lalit Modi’s case for getting travel documents.

“Leaked correspondence reveals how Vaz cited Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, to the Home Office in an effort to expedite the case of Lalit Modi, a mutual acquaintance....,” revealed London-based “The Sunday Times”.

Sushma was unfazed by the criticism and issued an exhaustive and candid reply to charges against her. She admitted to reaching out to the British high commissioner and Vaz after Lalit spoke to her “sometime in July 2014” seeking British immigration help for travelling to Portugal to sign consent papers so that his wife suffering from cancer undergoes surgery on August 4.

She accepted recommending to the diplomat to examine Lalit’s request within their rules saying, “if the British government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi - that will not spoil our bilateral relations.”

The minister, in her clarification, said the former cricket administrator had told her that the UK government wanted to clear her request, but was “restrained by a UPA government communication” that insisted giving Lalit travel papers “will spoil Indo-UK relations”.

“I genuinely believe that in a situation such as this, giving emergency travel documents to an Indian citizen cannot and should not spoil relations between the two countries,” she emphasised in her rejoinder to opposition charges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, threw his weight behind Sushma while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP chief Amit Shah rushed to her defence.

Ruling out the Opposition’s demand for Sushma’s resignation, both Singh and Shah agreed with the minister’s explanation that she helped NRI Lalit Modi on “humanitarian view” as he wanted to visit his ailing wife in Portugal.

“Lalit Modi was not helped the way Warren Anderson and Ottavio Quattrocchi were,” Amit Shah said, hitting back at the Congress which charged that the prime minister was helping his errant cabinet colleague. The RSS, too, was not convinced of the charges against her.

 A few days ago, she stated that the Delhi High Court had quashed the UPA government’s order impounding Lalit’s passport as the judges found that the previous Manmohan Singh regime’s order was unconstitutional and violated fundamental rights.

Accordingly, he got his passport back. Lalit Modi has been on the run since 2010 and settled in London facing Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate inquires over his alleged involvement in money laundering and tax diversion after successfully launching IPL T20 cricket tournament.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, too, had handed him over a lifetime ban after he was found guilty of misconduct post the T20 tournament in South Africa in 2009.
 
 

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