Jaitley defends Sushma's help to Lalit Modi

Modigate: Finmin says external affairs minister's intentions were good

Jaitley defends Sushma's help to Lalit Modi

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday broke his silence over the controversy involving Sushma Swaraj and Lalit Modi, defending the external affairs minister, who he said acted “bona fide” in helping the IPL ex-chief get travel documents from Britain.

Describing the allegations of illegally helping Modi as “baseless”, Jaitley said Swaraj and BJP president Amit Shah had said in statements soon after the controversy that what she did was with good intentions.

“Let me make it clear that all the allegations levelled are baseless. She acted bona fide. The entire government and the party are one on the issue. Let there be no doubt on this,” Jaitley told a joint press conference in the presence of Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
To a question on whether Swaraj took the decision to help Modi, who is facing probe in financial crime cases to the tune of Rs 1,700 crore, on her own, he said ministers in the government are capable of taking decisions on their own and once it is taken, there is collective responsibility.

Ahead of the press meet, called to ostensibly announce a flood relief package for Jammu and Kashmir, Jaitley and Swaraj met at Singh's office in North Block.

Swaraj had said she acted on humanitarian grounds to help Modi, who fled to London five years ago after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) levelled money laundering and other charges against him.

Jaitley's remarks came amid insinuations by some BJP leaders that he could be behind the latest controversy. Swaraj and Jaitley do not enjoy best of equations in the party, a reason that gave the Opposition parties an opportunity to question the Finance Minister's “silence” over the episode.

While Shah and the home minister had commented on Sunday itself, Jaitley had not made any remarks on the issue till now, while BJP MP Kirti Azad had tweeted about “aasteen ka saanp” (snake in the sleeves), suggesting that the controversy was an insider's job.
“Next question,” Jaitley quipped when asked about the identity of the back-stabber whom Azad, who is against Jaitley's camp in the India's cricket administration, was referring to.

Asked whether the ED had issued any blue-corner notice against Lalit Modi, he said in a lighter vein, “There is confusion over the shades of blue.”

However, he added that there is a procedure for a blue-corner notice. “There is a procedure of a light-blue-corner notice that is issued by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence at the request of the ED. That notice was issued in 2010, and continues to be valid even today,” he said.

On whether the ED would appeal against the Delhi High Court decision quashing the revocation of the IPL ex-chief's passport, Jaitley said: “The matter of passport falls under the jurisdiction of the passport authorities. They will decide.”

He said the ED has investigated several cases against Modi, and issued a number of show-cause notices as part of its quasi-judicial functions.

“I understand that out of 16 investigations, show-cause notices have been issued in 15. One is still under investigation," he said.

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