Published On : Sun, Jun 14th, 2015

Sushma Swaraj helped Lalit Modi procure travel documents?

NEW DELHI: In a startling expose by Times Now on the Lalit Modi’s travel documents issue, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj accepted that she was indeed in touch with Lalit Modi in the month of July, 2014. It has been alleged that Swaraj helped Lalit Modi procure travel documents to return to India.

However, she clarified that it was solely on humanitarian ground, as she was inquiring about his wife’s health, who was diagnosed with cancer. Swaraj added that Lalit Modi had spoken to her stating that his wife was suffering from cancer and a surgery was fixed for August 14, 2014, in Portugal.

On Sunday morning, Swaraj tweeted saying that Modi had informed her that he had applied for travel documents in London and that the UK government was prepared to give him the travel documents. But, the UK government was restrained by a UPA government communication that the move will spoil India-UK relations.

The expose also revealed that Swaraj’s husband was seeking favor at different levels from Lalit Modi.

Previously, Keith Vaz, one of Britain’s longest-serving Indian-origin MPs, is facing an inquiry by the UK’s parliamentary watchdog over allegations of a conflict of interest by intervening in the immigration application of controversial IPL founder Lalit Modi.

According to a ‘Sunday Times’ probe, Vaz 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.

Vaz 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, the newspaper points out.

However, Vaz has denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest and said he had treated Modi’s case the same as others who sought his help.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has now written to Kathryn Hudson, the UK parliamentary standards commissioner, urging her to investigate whether Vaz had breached the MPs’ code of conduct.

In a leaked correspondence seen by ‘The Sunday Times’, Vaz offered to help with the immigration case of Modi, a controversial multimillionaire who has been investigated by Indian tax authorities in the past.

Modi came to London in 2010 amid claims that the IPL cricket tournament was embroiled in alleged match-fixing and illegal betting.

His Indian passport was later revoked, leaving him grounded in the UK.

Modi has always 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”.

Vaz has said Modi’s case was one of “hundreds” he had raised with the home office on behalf of individuals where he felt there was a wider problem with the immigration system — in this case a delay in the issuing of travel papers.

He said: “There is no conflict of interest as I have no personal interest in this case and received no benefit from it. I actively encouraged people to bring to my and the committee’s attention examples of delays, inefficiencies and problems with the immigration system.”