British govt failed to act against ex-IPL czar

Lalit Modi found it easy to stay on in the United Kingdom (UK) since mid-2010, as the British government was never ready to act against him, notwithstanding requests from India, where the business tycoon was under a probe for reportedly flouting Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

After the Regional Passport Officer in Mumbai revoked his passport in March 2011, New Delhi requested London to send the former IPL commissioner back to India. The British government not only turned down the request from India, but also allowed him “Leave to remain” in the UK. He was issued a Residence Permit that allowed him to stay on in UK till 2016.

Modi received the UK Residence Permit (No: RC3496562) on March 13, 2014, when he had no valid passport. It was issued four months before External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj helped him get a travel document from British government for a visit to Portugal.
The Delhi High Court restored his passport on August 27, 2014 – five months after his stay in the UK was formally legalised with the Residence Permit being issued by the British Government.

Modi left for UK on May 14, 2010, about a month after one of his posts on Twitter not only led to resignation of the then minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor, but also brought the IPL under scanner with charges of financial irregularities.

Even as the Enforcement Directorate launched an investigation against him for FEMA violations, Modi continued to live in his mansion at 117, Sloane Street, Borough of Chelsea in London. When the ED issued summons asking him to appear before it, Modi cited threat to his life as reasons for not being able to return to the country. He also cited the same reason when he requested the British government to grant him “leave to remain” in the UK even after his multiple-entry visitor visa expired in 2012.

The erstwhile UPA government repeatedly asked the UK authorities to act against Modi. London, however, did nothing against the tycoon, who heads Modi Enterprises and Godfrey Philips India Limited and had substantial investments in UK.

“Legally, an individual does not require a valid passport in order to remain in the UK, so long as their leave to enter or remain in the UK is valid. Such leave is granted to the individual and therefore does not automatically expire upon the cancellation or expiry of the passport in which it is endorsed,” the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) wrote on January 21, 2014 in response to a letter from the ED. It also informed that British laws permitted an individual to apply to the Home Office to change his or her “status whilst in the UK, for example, by asking for leave to remain”.

“Where an application...is refused, an individual has the legal right to challenge the Home Office's decision. We are legally prevented from taking any further action against applicants, such as removal, until court proceedings are completed,” wrote the UK FCO.

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