Immigration row: Helped Lalit Modi with UK travel on humanitarian grounds, says Sushma Swaraj

PTI
Published Jun 14, 2015, 5:04 pm IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
Swaraj wrote to Labour MP Keith Vaz to expedite Modi’s travel documents to India
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. (Photo: PTI/File)
 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. (Photo: PTI/File)

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's name has been dragged into the controversy, surrounding grant of visa to former IPL chief Lalit Modi by the UK where the matter is before a parliamentary panel.

Modi, who has made London his base and avoided coming to India where there is a look-out notice for him for alleged misappropriation of funds in the T20 cricket tournament, was given a visa after Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz had recommended his name for the same.

 

According to British media, Vaz cited the name of Swaraj to put pressure on UK's top immigration official to grant British travel papers to Lalit Modi.

Swaraj on Sunday explained her actions saying she took a "humanitarian view" and conveyed to the British High Commissioner that they should examine Modi's request as per their rules and "if the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi that will not spoil our bilateral relations".

Giving the chronology of events, she said on Twitter, "Sometime in July 2014, Lalit Modi spoke to me that his wife was suffering from Cancer and her surgery was fixed for August 4 in Portugal. He told me that he had to be present in the hospital to sign the consent papers.

"He informed me that he had applied for travel documents in London and the UK Government was prepared to give him the travel documents. However, they were restrained by a UPA Government communication that this will spoil Indo-UK relations.

"Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that: "British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi that will not spoil our bilateral relations."

"Keith Vaz also spoke to me and I told him precisely what I told the British High Commissioner. "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 said.

"I may also state that only few days later, Delhi High Court quashed the UPA Government's order impounding Lalit Modi's passport on the ground that the said order was unconstitutional being violative of fundamental rights and he got his passport back," Swaraj said.

On Vaz reportedly offering to help Swaraj's nephew to apply for a British law degree course, she said, "Regarding Jyotirmay Kaushal's admission in a Law course at Sussex University, he secured admission through the normal admission process in 2013 - one year before I became a Minister."

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has written to Kathryn Hudson, the UK parliamentary standards commissioner, urging her to investigate whether Vaz had breached the MPs' code of conduct. Vaz reportedly personally wrote to Sarah Rapson, the director-general of UK visas and immigration, in an effort to expedite the case of London-based Modi, former commissioner of Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

The Labour MP was then chairman of the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in which role he was required to scrutinise and hold to account the work of Rapson and her department.

Lalit Modi came to London in 2010 as allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting related to IPL cricket tournament emerged.

His Indian passport was revoked by the government in March 2011, but it was restored by the Delhi High Court in August last year. Modi has denied any wrongdoing and says he left India for Britain because of death threats.

Shortly after he received his UK travel documents last summer after a lengthy legal battle with the UK Home Office, Modi described Vaz as a "superstar". Sometime in July 2014 Lalit Modi spoke to me that his wife was suffering from Cancer and her surgery was fixed for 4th Aug in Portugal.

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