More trouble for BJP: Lalit Modi claims Raje agreed to be his secret witness in UK immigration plea

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 17, 2015 15:54 IST

Former IPL boss Lalit Modi on Tuesday claimed that Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhra Raje secretly supported his immigration plea in Britain, and also dragged in names of three former UPA ministers into the controversy over his travel papers.

Modi said Raje, who was then the opposition leader, agreed to back his application for immigration to the UK in 2011, a year after he left India facing serious charges of money laundering and forex violation.

“She openly agreed to be (a witness), but unfortunately by the time the case went to trial, she was already chief minister, so she did not come to become a witness. The statements she gave is all on records in the courts,” he said in an interview to India Today TV.

The claim came hours after Modi’s camp reportedly released a ‘witness statement’ purportedly signed by Raje under a condition of strict secrecy.

"I make this statement in support of any immigration application that Lalit Modi makes, but do so on the strict condition that my assistance will not become known to the Indian authorities." NDTV quoted from the document.

Raje has denied any knowledge of this document and there was no independent verification of its authenticity.

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 Sunday Times of London reported that external affair minister Sushma Swaraj helped him obtain British travel documents to fly to Portugal.

In his interview to India Today, Modi said his friendship with Raje went back 30 years , and that she had accompanied his wife when she went to Portugal for cancer treatment in 2012 and 2013.

He said he was close not only to Raje and Swaraj but also to former union ministers Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel (both from the Nationalist Congress Party) and Rajeev Shukla (Congress)

He claimed that all three, who were ministers in the Manmohan Singh government, helped him get travel papers. 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 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 blamed media tycoon Rupert Murdoch for the controversy over his travel papers, saying he was targeted 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."

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.

Read: Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj row: Experts divided over legislation to tackle conflict of interest

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