Daring the Enforcement Directorate to prove any charge against him, former IPL boss Lalit Modi named three senior UPA leaders for having helped him in recent years even as he blamed media baron Rupert Murdoch for being behind the Sunday Times leak linking him to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.
Living outside India for several years now, Modi faces 16 Enforcement Directorate cases and has of late become a headache for the BJP-led government after the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times of London reported Swaraj helped him obtain British travel documents to fly to Portugal.
Modi told India Today channel that former Union ministers Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel (both from the Nationalist Congress Party) and Rajeev Shukla (Congress) had helped him get travel papers. All three were ministers in the previous Manmohan Singh government, and Shukla and Pawar denied the charges to India Today.
Shukla said he had never helped Modi. “I have never helped him and neither have I sought for his help,” Shukla said. Pawar said he and Praful had advised Modi to return to the country to face trial.
HT attempted to independently contact the three leaders but they could not be reached.
Modi said the Sunday Times reported about Swaraj helping his bid to obtain travel documents to travel to Portugal to be with his ailing wife because of his involvement in the Champions Twenty20 League.
Murdoch could not get out of the broadcasting rights of the loss-making tournament because of a no-exit clause in the contract, he said. “He knew I was going to tell about the no-exit clause,” he added.
“I have done nothing wrong. I have paid my dues. I have been over-criticised. I have been taken to task by government in the past it made my life miserable for no reason,” Modi told the TV channel in Montenegro.
Modi blamed the “interference” by the previous UPA government for the delay in his getting a UK residency.
The fallen IPL czar acknowledged his proximity to the Swaraj family, saying the minister’s husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri Swaraj have been his advocates for 20 and four years respectively. “We are close in many ways,” Modi said.
Modi admitted that Swaraj met him in London along with many other people but denied funding her travel to UK. He denied there was any conflict of interest in Swaraj helping him, and said, “Conflict of interest arises when government of India goes to a land breaking all legal norms.”
As the BJP found itself mired in a fresh controversy after it emerged that its leader Vasundhara Raje appeared to have been a secret witness to the 2011 UK immigration application of Modi, the former IPL boss said the Rajasthan chief minister had in 2012 accompanied his wife to Portugal.
The controversial cricket administrator also disputed claims that he was evading court and investigating agencies in India. He said he may have not appeared personally before the court of any other agency, but has done so through his advocates and written affidavits.
Accusing former finance minister P Chidambaram of pursuing political vendetta against him, Modi said the senior Congress leader could not bring him back legally so “he tried to arm-twist me through a secret correspondence with the UK authorities in which he said India’s relationship with that country would be soured if he was given any relief.”
Claiming that UK authorities have paid damages to him, Modi said Chidambaram was upset with him because he took on then union minister Shashi Tharoor. “Mr Tharoor lost his job as he lied to people that he has nothing to do with Kochi team,” he said.
Modi said he has won at multiple stages in British courts and that the same has been examined in India as well. He added he could have easily given up his Indian citizenship and acquired the passport of any other country. “But I had to prove a point legally,” he said.