Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Navtej Sarna walked out of a book launch event attended by Vijay Mallya, the Indian business tycoon who has been >declared a proclaimed offender by the Indian authorities.
The event was held on June 16 by the 100-ft Journey Club of the South Asia Centre at the London School of Economics to release “Mantras for Success: India’s Greatest CEOs Tell You How to Win” a book by author Suhel Seth and journalist Sunny Sen.
Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, released the book. Mr. Sarna had been invited as part of a panel to discuss the book. Mr. Mallya was seen walking in and sitting at the back of the Old Theatre auditorium at the LSE with his daughter as soon as the evening function started.
“Mr. Mallya was not invited by LSE or the High Commission – but he came just before the start and sat at the back with his daughter. The Indian High Commissioner left as soon as he saw him,” one of the organisers of the event told The Hindu , adding, “This was a public event, and was widely advertised on social media.”
Responding to criticism over Mr. Mallya's appearance at the event co-hosted by the Indian High Commission where Indian High Commissioner to the UK and a British Minister were present, the MEA clarified that Mr. Mallya was not an invitee.
“The list of invitations for the LSE event was determined by LSE. They have written to the High Commissioner that Mallya was not on their list. They have also said that the event was advertised widely through social media and attendees were not required to register in advance. When the High Commissioner spotted Mallya in the audience he left the stage and venue immediately after making his comments and without waiting for the interactive session,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement issued on Saturday.
A High Commission spokesperson confirmed Mr. Mallya's attendance at the function and the High Commissioner's departure from the room upon seeing him in the audience. "The LSE has written to the High Commissioner that Mr. Mallya was not on their list and that the event was advertised widely through social media. Attendees were not required to register in advance." Neither was Mr. Mallya invited nor present at a subsequent reception at the High Commission, he added.
Mr. Mallya, the owner of United Spirits, United Breweries and Kingfisher Airlines has been living in London since March after failing to repay a Rs. 9000 crore debt to the IDBI bank that he had taken in 2009 to >shore up the ailing Kingfisher airline . When he did not respond to summons by the Indian authorities, >his passport was cancelled . In April an Indian court issued a warrant for his arrest. Subsequently, the > Indian government requested Britain to deport Mr. Mallya, >a plea the British government turned dow n. India is now seeking his >extradition . Mr. Mallya has rejected all claims of wrongdoing.
(With inputs from Suhasini Haidar)