Under attack from the Congress over external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s role in the Lalit Modi controversy, the government is learnt to be preparing the grounds for impounding the former IPL commissioner’s passport. This would be the next course of action once the Enforcement Directorate (ED) gets a non-bailable warrant against Modi for non-compliance of summons in a case of suspected money laundering.
Top government sources said the UPA’s decision to impound Modi’s passport in 2011 was on “weak grounds” and, therefore, overturned by the Delhi high court.
The ED’s proceedings against him at that time were also all related to foreign exchange violations, which are “not a criminal offence” and for which the former cricket czar could not have been arrested.
Even if the charges under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) were proved, Modi would get away simply by paying a fine. The light blue corner notice issued against him by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence only meant authorities needed to know his whereabouts.
“It is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case the ED is now pursuing that will nail Lalit Modi,” said a source, adding that the former IPL boss could face up to seven years rigorous imprisonment if convicted.
The Congress has been relentlessly demanding Swaraj’s ouster for her ministry’s decision not to appeal the court order restoring Modi’s passport, and has sought to link it with her alleged intervention in getting him travel documents in the UK to visit Portugal. Impounding his passport, therefore, will take the sting out of the Opposition onslaught, the government feels.
Last month, the ED moved a special court in Mumbai for a non-bailable warrant against Modi. It is examining if Modi allegedly benefitted from a payment of over Rs 425 crore by a Singapore-based company to an obscure firm in Mauritius for television rights of the popular cricket tournament. Lalit Modi has denied these charges.
Sources said once a non-bailable warrant is issued, subject to the special court’s ruling, steps would be taken to get Interpol to issue a red corner notice against Modi and the ED would take appropriate steps to impound his passport.