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“Keith Vaz dropped Sushma’s name to push Lalit Modi’s case”

Sushma Swaraj with former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi during an IPL match in New Delhi in 2010. File photo: PTI

Sushma Swaraj with former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi during an IPL match in New Delhi in 2010. File photo: PTI  

MP says his actions were guided by humanitarian considerations.

Keith Vaz, the senior Labour MP of Indian origin, used the name of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to put pressure on Sarah Rapson, the head of UK visa and immigration, to grant IPL founder Lalit Modi travel papers for the United Kingdom.

In a follow up to its first expose carried last Sunday on Mr. Vaz’s role in facilitating Mr. Modi’s entry into Britain in August 2014, today’s Sunday Times cites leaked correspondence from Mr. Vaz to the Home Office, invoking the names of Ms. Swaraj and Sir James Bevan, the British High Commissioner to New Delhi in an effort to expedite Mr. Modi’s case. The newspaper alleges that less than 24 hours after Mr. Vaz -- then the chairman of the powerful House of Commons home affairs select committee -- called Ms. Rapson, Mr. Modi was granted his travel papers.

Mr. Vaz reportedly phoned Mr. Modi and said “From the horse’s mouth! I will do a thank you [letter to Ms. Rapson]. We will need her again,” the Sunday Times says.

Mr. Vaz has strongly denied allegations of conflict of interest that have been made against him. Mr. Modi is not a resident of his constituency of Leicester East (which could have justified his intervention). Secondly, the home affairs select committee scrutinises and holds to account Ms. Rapson’s department, a fact that put pressure on Ms. Rapson to concede Mr. Vaz’s request.

Mr. Vaz said he treated Mr. Modi’s request as he would have the hundreds of other requests he received in his capacity as chairman of the committee. He went the extra mile for Mr. Modi on >humanitarian grounds as his wife needed cancer treatment abroad.

In last week’s expose, the Sunday Times revealed that not only did Mr. Vaz write to Ms. Rapson, he also wrote to another Home Office official, claiming that Mr. Modi also had the support of the Prince of Wales, and Prince Andrew. In his letter to Ms. Rapson, Mr. Vaz said: “The Foreign Minister of India has spoken to me, making it very clear that the Indian government have no objection to the travel document being granted. Mrs. Swaraj has also spoken to Sir James Bevan who, even though he was on leave, said he would speak to the relevant person in the Home Office. Frankly, everyone has been involved in this apart from Ban Ki-moon,” the newspaper quotes him as saying.

MPs demand probe

Based on these reports, some Conservative MPs have called for an inquiry to be conducted into conflict of interest allegations by the parliamentary standards commissioner. Neither Mr. Vaz nor Mr. Modi responded to emails, phone calls and text messages by The Hindu.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 10:19:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lalit-modi-visa-row-keith-vaz-dropped-sushmas-name-to-push-lalit-modis-case/article7315800.ece

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