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Acclaimed NRIs in LSE-Libya web

world Updated: Mar 05, 2011 01:25 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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Two of Britain's best-known people of Indian origin - a Labour academic and a feisty human rights activist - have found themselves named in a scandal over links between the Libyan elite and the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), whose director has resigned in disgrace.

Both Lord Meghnad Desai, a former LSE professor, and Shami Chakrabarti, director of the British civil rights group Liberty, have figured prominently in the British media in the runup to LSE director Howard Davies' resignation on Thursday over the school's acceptance of a £1.5 million Libyan donation.

Desai, a renowned economist was forced to defend himself after it emerged that he was one of two examiners who approved the PhD thesis of Saif Gaddafi, son Muammar Gaddafi. Parts of the thesis, it is alleged, were plagiarised or ghost-written.

"We read the thesis and examined Mr Gaddafi orally for two-and-a-half hours," Desai said this week. "We then reported that the thesis needed revisions and corrections, which the candidate was invited to submit. When he did so we read the thesis again and decided that the degree should be awarded… At no stage did the supervisors or anyone else suggest to us that plagiarism was suspected and we found no reason to do so ourselves."

Far more damaging to the LSE's reputation are revelations that it took money from a foundation headed by Saif in 2009.

Shami (Sharmishta) Chakrabarti, a lawyer and member of the LSE's ruling council, said: "The director has been completely straight about his embarrassment. The council has been completely united in regret. As human rights campaigner I can only share bucketsful of both."

The university said it received only £300,000 of the donation, which will now be used to fund a new scholarship for North African students. It has also launched an investigation into the thesis-plagiarism allegations. As civil war engulfed Libya, it emerged that Saif's thesis is entitled: 'The role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions: from 'soft power' to collective decision-making?'