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Two NRIs in secret donor list

The UK Labour Party published a list of wealthy donors including Sir Gulam Noon and Chai Patel.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 21, 2006 10:50 AM IST

After days of denials about receiving 'secret' donations, the Labour Party has published a list of wealthy businesspersons - including two of Indian origin - who lent it nearly 14 million pounds.

The two businessmen of Indian origin are Sir Gulam Noon, better known as the 'curry tycoon' for his large Indian food empire, and Chai Patel, head of the upmarket rehabilitation clinic chain called Priory, stated the list brought out Monday night.

The biggest loans the party received were 2.3 million pounds from property developer Sir David Garrard, 2 million pounds from fashion magnate Richard Caring and 2 million pounds from science minister Lord Sainsbury.

The controversial list was released even as the ruling party insisted that there was no connection between the donations and recommended the donors for peerage in the House of Lords.

There are now calls to enact legislation to ban secret donations to political parties.

Prime Minister Tony Blair denied that nominations were made to the House of Lords in exchange for loans. However, Sir Gulam Noon's nomination to the House was reportedly rejected by the appointments commission because of an undisclosed donation worth 250,000 pounds to the Labour party. Under rules, such donations need to be disclosed before appointments to the House of Lords are confirmed.

As per the list, Chai Patel donated 1.5 million pounds to the party. He was also nominated to the House of Lords, adding fuel to allegations of the 'cash for peerage' system under the Blair government.

Lakshmi Mittal, the billionaire steel magnate of Indian origin, who has openly donated 2 million pounds to Labour, said he saw nothing wrong or fishy in donating money to the party. He said he had never been approached for a secret loan.

"If you are working in a country, if you have businesses in a country and are living in a country, you have to decide your allegiance to a political party and support them because all political parties need help from business," he told newspersons.

After publishing the list, the Labour Party challenged the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrats to follow suit and publish lists of their lenders.

The Liberal Democrats said it had already done so but Conservative treasurer Jonathan Marland said he was not prepared "under any circumstances" to disclose where his party's loans come from.

He told BBC he saw no reason to follow Labour's example and publish the names of individual lenders to his party.

"We are not in this mess because we are not in power. We don't have patronage to give and we are not in the same position," he said.

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