Questions we need to ask but govt won’t answer
When Sushma Swaraj contacted the British High Commissioner James Bevan to convey the Indian Government’s view that it had no objection to Lalit Modi being allowed to travel out of the UK and it would in no way spoil the bilateral relations between India and the UK, was there any communication in writing and was a copy of this communication forwarded by either Sushma Swaraj or Lalit Modi to Bansuri Swaraj, Swaraj Kaushal and Lalit Modi’s legal team who were fighting to get his passport restored in the High Court in India? E-mails between Lalit Modi and Keith Vaz in regards to the travel document case state ‘One pushback was they need in writing from government of India.’
Was this document or statement by Sushma Swaraj used by Lalit Modi’s legal team to bolster their argument in the Indian courts that revoking his passport was part of the conspiracy by the UPA government and Finance Minister Chidambaram as were the many ‘false cases’ of economic offences and FEMA violations framed against him, all part of an elaborate revenge plot for his causing the resignation of UPA cabinet Minister Shashi Tharoor?
And after Modi’s appeals to restore his passport were earlier rejected in the Indian courts during the UPA regime, was the High Court Judge hearing the case suddenly swayed by the fact that not only had the British Government had provided him travel documents till 2016, it was done after the current foreign Minister in the NDA government had given the British Government the green light, saying that granting Lalit Modi’s request by the British Government was no threat to India-UK relations. Was the judge informed in private by someone in the government of India that the government had no desire to appeal the case if Lalit Modi got back his passport and did he take the Foreign Minister’s support of Modi as ample proof that whatever may be the case that existed against <g data-gr-id="296">Modi ,</g> his crimes were not that serious, as the current NDA government took a much more lenient view of his misdemeanours compared to the previous UPA regime?
Was Lalit Modi in a tearing hurry to get this travel documents by 4th August not because of his wife’s ‘operation’ in Portugal but because he needed it as part of his proof of innocence defence in his appeal in the passport case which was to come up for hearing in the same month in India, since a passport, as opposed to a travel document, would give him complete freedom to travel the world without a hint of suspicion. As Modi’s mail to Keith Vaz mentions, ‘Ingovernment of India somebody is working to find a solution NOW (meaning July 30),’ referring to the travel documents case.
Modi’s passport was restored to him by the court on August 27th, a few weeks after the British Government provided him travel documents on Sushma Swaraj’s say-so. As Modi wrote to Keith Vaz, “Indian passport judgement may come tomorrow. If it does then we can push the Indian foreign ministry to clear issuing the same(his passport) tomorrow itself. Then we can further apply to Malta and use that visa to travel directly to Lisbon and return via Malta to London.<g data-gr-id="303">’</g> Malta, on the outskirts of Europe, would have been an easier destination to get a visa from, as news of his exploits would be lesser known to the immigration authorities there. Also, Malta has declared that super-rich foreigners can now buy a passport and EU citizenship from Malta and will be charged €650,000 for the favour, but won’t have to live in the country on a regular basis. Many wealthy foreigners have applied for Maltese passports that give them the right to live in Britain or anywhere else in the EU and even to claim benefits. The passport grants its holders full EU citizenship, including freedom of movement through Europe and Maltese citizenship also come with a visa waiver on entry to the US. Has the government tried to find out if Lalit Modi has applied for a <g data-gr-id="300"><g data-gr-id="305">Maltesepassport</g>.</g>
Also, there was the little matter of a luxury yacht he had previously purchased in Malta. Has the government tried to put a lien on his yacht if it is still <g data-gr-id="274">there.</g> Modi had got himself declared bankrupt in a London court over unpaid bills of 65,000 pounds (about Rs 53 lakh) owed to a private security firm, just before the judgment from a libel trial with the retired New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns where he was asked to pay £2.4m in damages and costs because he accused Cairns of match-fixing.
He seems hard up for cash and has launched a fresh legal claim to claw back the money from Cairns. He is also fighting hard to be paid Rs 1.7 crore annually as director in his father’s firm, Godfrey Phillips even though he has not attended a single board of directors’ meeting in the last several years. This may all be a front as he is still travelling the world first class or in private jets, rather he may be whizzing around as needs to move his slush funds around unbeknown to the authorities in London or India so that his secret accounts do not get sealed by them at some future date. Are Intelligence agencies tracking his travels in various countries and any money trail or financial dealings in the various tax havens and shell companies he has links with, including in the Bahamas and <g data-gr-id="283">Mauritius.</g>The countries Modi has recently visited include including China, Turkey, Cuba, Italy, Seychelles, Thailand, Switzerland, Bali, Jamaica, Spain, Kenya, Qatar, Germany and Montenegro, among others.
In an email thanking everyone who helped him get his travel documents he says, ‘Roger and his team backed by <g data-gr-id="281">justsuper</g> star Keith Vaz with support of numerous friends in India, Malta, Portugal, Virginia Waters, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, Lyon and some unnamed stars I cannot thank you enough.’ These friends in high places in the above-mentioned countries are one line of investigation ED can easily track to sniff out his hidden loot.
According to reports the procedure Minal Modi was admitted to Champalimaiud cancer research centre in Portugal for was a radiation treatment and not surgery and other kith and kin could easily have signed consent forms if at all they were needed. After all, according to Modi’s own revelations on a television channel, even Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had previously accompanied his wife Minal on various occasions to the same centre for similar treatments. Obviously it was not a life and death situation as Modi is now claiming, saying she could have died on the operating table and so his presence was needed, as Modi posted photos of the Champalimaiud Centre on the banks of the <g data-gr-id="289">Taguis</g> in Lisbon on that date and tweeted that he ‘just spent the day’ there. He notes that it has been designed by Indian architect Charles Correa but does not specify why he visited it.
The next day, Modi posts a photograph of himself in front the church in Fatima outside Lisbon, the Catholic pilgrimage site about 100 km away, which bolsters the conviction he was not even in the centre overnight, as he would not have left his ‘dying’ wife’s bedside to go to a church. He does not mention how his wife is doing, (probably because it was a routine procedure here which she had been through before), though he says he was there to honour the fulfillment of a vow. Within three days, the absconding cricket czar was posting pictures after being back on the club circuit in Ibiza with his ‘dying wife,’ where they partied up a storm with the world’s rich and famous, supposedly in celebration of her miracle cure from liver cancer. Could it be remotely possible that Sushma Swaraj and family did not follow his exploits on instagram after being family friends for twenty years and should not that have prompted the Foreign Minister to immediately seek a ban on further travel by this proclaimed offender in case her actions rebounded on her at some future date, or at least a clarification from Modi?
The question that niggles most of all is the role of the finance minister Arun Jaitley in this whole sorry episode. According to his press conference he said in Hindi, (‘Sunne pe aya,’ and in English, ‘I understand’) ‘ that out of 16 investigations, in 15 of them show cause notices have been issued. This is the information I have. One is still under investigation.” It seemed like the finance Minister was talking about a case he had read about in the papers or under the purview of some other ministry, and not something he should be actively pursuing as the ED was his direct responsibility.
He seemed to imply that its responsibilities ended with the ED issuing show cause notices and that as one case was still under investigation, officials could not have actively taken up the repatriation of Lalit Modi with the UK until all relevant evidence was filed. Modi fled India in 2010, the finance Minister is speaking about the matter in mid 2015. Since his performance as finance Minister has not been stellar, to say the least, compared to his brilliant stewardship of various ministries under the Vajpayee Government, the least Mr Jaitley could do to redeem himself and his government, whose keystone policy seems to be pandering to the masses with an eye on some election or the other that is always round the corner, by whipping out some crowd-pleasing pronouncement just before polls are due, would be to give credence to their claims of wiping out corruption and recovering black money from abroad through the finance Ministry’s quick and decisive action, after the case had dragged on for years under the UPA, by triumphantly parading the repatriation of a serious white collar criminal like Lalit Modi, who has lined his pockets and that of his extended circle of family and friends with millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains. Finance ministry sources said that the ED and the Revenue Department were not a party before the case in the Delhi high court and it was for the MEA to go in for an appeal in Modi’s passport case. Asked whether the ED would appeal against the Delhi High Court decision quashing the revocation of passport, Mr. Jaitley nonchalantly said “the matter of passport comes within the jurisdiction of passport authorities. They will decide.”
Mr Jaitley being one of the brightest legal luminaries in the country should know that the onus to pursue the revocation of Lalit Modi’s passport lies with the investigating agency and not with the external affairs ministry, which acts more as an enabling clerk in the whole matter, simply following the relevant department’s orders? Why did the ED raise not the whimper of an objection when Modi waltzed away with his passport and why did it not ask the External Affairs Ministry to immediately file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the decision by the High Court judge, whose reasons for releasing the passport seemed to totally ignore the large amounts of evidence the ED had collated in the 16 cases against Modi?
Were the government lawyers and finance minister aware at the time of the Court’s restoration of Modi’s passport that his travel documents from the UK office had been obtained after intervention by the foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and did anybody bother to take this up with the external affairs Ministry and demand a clarification from the Foreign Minister? Did they not inform the foreign ministry that Modi’s travel document posed a serious risk of his flight to some banana republic from where repatriation might be much more difficult in the future? After all, Modi had often bragged in the past of his ability to get a passport from countries like Iceland, which had once been declared bankrupt and where rich investors were very welcome and may be well-protected against the likes of the ED’s ‘light’ blue-corner notice out against him.
Jaitley also seemed to find it quite funny that there was a look out notice by the enforcement directorate against Lalit Modi that is supposedly still valid. Asked whether any blue-corner notice has been issued against Modi by the ED, the Finance Minister initially smiled and joked saying, “there is a confusion about shades of blue.” “There is a procedure of a blue-corner notice which is issued by the Interpol. There is a procedure of a light blue corner notice which is issued by the directorate of revenue intelligence at the request of ED. That notice was issued in 2010 and that notice continues to be valid even today,” he said, implying the ED’s light blue corner notice obviously did not carry the same weight as the Interpol’s blue corner notice. In that case, Mr Finance Minister, did you or the Prime Minister at any time intimate to the home Ministry or CBI that a Blue, Red, Green, Black, Orange or any other shade of the rainbow notice should be immediately issued against this proclaimed offender with the help of Interpol? Obviously, the value of the ED’s blue corner notice is very suspect, as Lalit Modi has been merrily travelling to every happening destination in the world since then without any of the airport authorities so much as batting an eyelid.
Lalit Modi has also been in touch with Ronald K. Noble, who, until recently was head of Interpol, and who has been copied on various emails to Keith Vaz. He is probably on Modi’s list of influential ‘advisors’, so that he can easily provide him information on various ways to avoid look-out notices in different countries and also inform him of the technicalities of light blue notices versus other Interpol alerts and whether Modi’s name crops up in any other Interpol notices in future.
After the BCCI set up a disciplinary committee, comprising Arun Jaitley and Jyotiraditya Scindia, in July 2010 to look into Modi’s alleged improprieties, they conducted numerous hearings over a three-year period and submitted a 134-page report in which they found Modi guilty on eight counts, “including financial irregularities, indiscipline and actions detrimental to the interest of the BCCI”. He was accused of serious contraventions of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act in connection with the IPL and Modi was suspected to have acquired substantial foreign exchange worth crores of rupees outside India by allegedly misusing his position as IPL chairman. In spite of Jaitley being one of the architects of the report which banned Modi for life from the BCCI, his subsequent inertia is baffling. Have his cronies prevailed upon him in the BCCI so that smoking gun Modi does not wash BCCI dirty linen in public and sing like a canary as he has often threatened to bring many other luminaries down with him? After all, many including Jaitley sat as mute witnesses on the sidelines for many years when Modi was raking in the moolah and some of the current BCCI members may have been complicit in his crimes.
Or does Jaitley want to play the saint and save face by wearing a cloak of neutrality so that no one can blame him for hounding Lalit Modi for some personal grudge he may bear against him. After all, BCCI is a cosy club and Jaitley may not want to offend powerful friends (and foes) in the organisation.
And what about the model of probity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi , crusader against corruption and our bright white hope. His silence is equally baffling. Perhaps he is afraid to take on his old rivals for power, to say anything that will rock the boat after he has worked hard to broker an uneasy peace. Perhaps he is too conscious of the phrase, “ hold your friends close but your enemies closer”
What was he doing to pursue this criminal who was cocking a snook at the Indian system and commenting and interfering in all manner of imbroglios like some oracle from abroad when he should be sweating it out in the Indian courts or in a jail somewhere. Did the PM ask his chief minister in Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, how a criminal could lord it over Rajasthan Cricket Board and get elected as its president without even stepping foot in the country, soon after she came to power and did he seek her advice as Lalit Modi’s close family friend with whom she has now fallen out on how he could be brought to book, perhaps with her help. Did he ask his finance Minister Arun Jailtley when Lalit Modi was regularly appearing on Times Now with that dissembler Arnab Goswami who, due to his own vested interests, projected him as a messiah who would cure BCCI of all its ills, including its president, Srinivasan, by ousting him from the BCCI and not allowing him to contest future elections, how far the cases against the clown called Lalit Modi had progressed as he was making our country the laughing stock of the world on every TV channel that would have him.
After using him for his nefarious purposes, Goswami is now abusing Modi and claims to have singlehandedly exposed Modi when everyone knows the story was first broken by the Sunday Times in London. But that is not the question as everyone knows about this TV anchor’s moral outrage is simply a show for the cameras.
The question is that after ranting and raving for hours together on Srinivasan’s many sins of omission and commission from his swanky bolthole in London’s Sloane Street, could the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of the nation not pick up the phone to each other and discuss what could be done to bring this serial offender to book and not allow a criminal to hold an entire cricket board to ransom with his mindless threats, even while mumbling nonsensical excuses about his refusal to return to India and ferreting away his ill-gotten gains in various tax havens, all the while preaching and screeching blue murder from a TV screen while we all watched his audacity in bemusement?
And what about PM Modi’s foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj? The PM is known to read the papers assiduously? Did he ask his Foreign Minister what action she would be taking to ensure Modi’s passport was not returned to him after the High Court Judgement. Did he ask her why she did not keep her bureaucrats or him in the loop when taking a decision to help a known offender whose scams amounted to a mind-boggling loot of Rs 1700 crore, to get travel documents in the UK. Did he ask her if any of her rich and powerful friends in the UK made donations on her behalf to get her nephew into Sussex University? Was similar help provided for her daughter’s admission into Oxford or for her law course admission? The donors’ list of the university could provide some clues perhaps.
What about our Home Minister? Will he take it upon himself to investigate claims by Lalit Modi that he is unable to return to India because of security threats. Supposedly a hitman of don Chota Shakeel claimed that he was asked to assassinate Lalit Modi and family. Lalit Modi’s wife also claimed that Dawood’s men tried to kill her in Bangkok. Now why would Dawood Ibrahim, betting kingpin of the world, want to wipe out Lalit Modi?, Was it because he was allegedly also involved in betting and match-fixing to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees. After it is matchmade in heaven, it should be perhaps it is a falling out among criminals as Modi may not have known the code of honour among thieves. Supposedly, a government intelligence agency also picked up a phone conversation between Chota Shakeel and his boss Dawood Ibrahim, instructing him to hire four assassins to carry out the assassination of Lalit Modi and his family in either South Africa or in India.
If there had been a falling out among thieves should not this angle have been communicated to the UK courts, to show this was not some terrorist threat but personal score settling by these criminals or worse, a cooked-up sham phone conversation between Dawood and Chota Shakeel to hoodwink the authorities into believing there was anassasination threat so they could help out their partner in crime, Modi, as no one mentions their supari target by name in phone conversations which they know may be tapped.It seems Modi is free to roam the world without fear from Dawood’s gang, it seems it is only if he returns to India will they strike!
Lalit Modi had a trail of failed ventures and defaults till he took over as IPL Chairman but now has a playboy lifestyle that includes a private jet, a luxury yacht and millions of dollars in slush funds made illegally through shady deals and criminal conspiracies. Today this conman is able to shake a government and decide which minister he will save and which Chief Minister he will expose due to petty score-settling, through his hysterical tirade of lies and half-truths, while the government watches paralysed, held to ransom by what he will reveal next. Why is the government afraid of this shyster and criminal, why does it not act to shut him down immediately and pursue him with all the resources at its disposal?