Britain’s Conservative party threw out a leading Indian-origin fundraiser after he was secretly filmed in a sting operation offering Prime Minister David Cameron’s cellphone number for £10,000 (about R8 lakh) a year.
“Those who pay £10,000 a year get Cameron’s mobile,” Rickie Sehgal, chairman of the high-profile British Asian Conservative Link (BACL) told an undercover Mail on Sunday reporter posing as an Asian businessman. The BACL website was taken down on Sunday amid reports that the ruling coalition party would dissociate itself with the group.
Sehgal, a leading member of Britain's Hindu Forum and managing director of an IT company, claimed extensive links with the Conservative party. He boasted of close links with the party’s joint chairs Baroness Warsi and Lord Feldman and promised the undercover reporter a meeting with home minister Theresa May.
On the surface, the BACL's work seemed above board: it got wealthy Asians to canvass and fundraise for Conservative politicians and, in return, the Asians got to hobnob with powerful politicians. But the cash-for-access scandal is embarrassing for Cameron and his party.
“This is very, very wrong that you offer the party leader's phone number to anybody and ask for money,” Prem Sharma, veteran Indian-origin Conservative activist told HT from India, where he is on holiday. Sharma, who is among three advisors listed by the BACL, was not aware of the Mail on Sunday report when HT contacted him.
“They put me in as an advisor,” said Sharma, founder-patron of the Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India. “I am not against the activists, but this is entirely wrong, and I seriously doubt they had David Cameron's mobile number.”
Sehgal later said he was “highly embarrassed” about his behaviour, adding that the £10,000-offer was a reference to the BACL being turned into a new organisation, the Conservative Friends of India (CFI), later this year.