Former IPL chief is no 'fugitive'

Lalit Modi
Lalit Modi's lawyer Mehmood M Abdi on Monday dismissed reports that the former Indian Premier League commissioner was an "offender" or a "fugitive".

An affidavit was released through a public relations firm, presumably to drive home the point that his travel to Portugal was for his wife's treatment.

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The affidavit had extensive details of the cancer condition of Minal Modi, the wife of Lalit Modi, along with other documents, including a letter from Interpol that there was no Blue Corner Notice on him, and an account of the security threats to him. There was no mention of an Enforcement Directorate (ED) inquiry in relation to a case registered against him in India for money laundering.

What is virtually an entreaty to the British Home Office for travel documents to enable Lalit Modi to travel to Portugal to be with his wife, were made public by this move. It supported Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's claim that she acted out of humanitarian concerns and wrote to the British Foreign Office that he be given the documents to travel.

The Modis' publicists also added a signed certificate from the doctor of an alternative therapy centre in Portugal that said he would prefer to have a relative present as the patient's condition could turn critical. Also attached was a signed letter dated October 2013 from the General Secretariat of the Interpol at Lyon in France, saying they had no information about files from India seeking to put out a Blue Corner Notice against Lalit Modi.

Minal Modi's affidavit said she has had cancer on and off for 17 years. When routine medical intervention failed and the cancer resurfaced, she decided to opt for alternative treatment. In her affidavit, she said she was advised surgery that could put her life at risk; and she did not want to go in for that surgery without her husband by her side. She virtually begged the British government to allow Lalit Modi to travel.

The affidavit that tugs at the heartstrings said: "I know that Lalit is doing everything he possibly can to resolve these problems and I am grateful to him for that. I am making this witness statement to support his efforts regarding a Home Office Certificate of Travel. I implore the Secretary of State: please issue Lalit with a travel document. I am told it is not in dispute that you have the discretion to do so. I will need the comfort of my husband, and I will also need him to make decisions on my behalf during the surgery (and maybe at other times, if I feel incapable of doing so myself)… It is hard to describe the comfort I would derive from having Lalit with me. Due to my medical condition, I value my family life more than ever and I spend every spare minute I have with my family members. Family life is not just to be enjoyed, but cherished, and I cherish every moment. My medical condition has affected my family heavily and we need to support each other. In particular, I need their support - and Lalit's support most of all. Lalit and I have been married for well over 20 years and have stood by each other through thick and thin. I need him now, more than ever."

All the documentation was buttressed by information given out by the public relations agency about the security threat to Lalit Modi. It said on October 14, 2009, he had received an e-mail threatening him with assassination.

On February 23, 2010, the joint commissioner of Mumbai Police had told him they had intercepted communications indicating the existence of such a plan, by operatives of the Mumbai underworld. It later transpired that there was actually an attempt on Lalit Modi's life while he was in Thailand in December 2009. Lalit Modi says all this was done around the time he exposed Shashi Tharoor's involvement in the Kochi Indian Premier League franchise, where Tharoor's then-companion-and-later-wife late Sunanda Pushkar got sweat equity without any cash investment.

After this, the Enforcement Directorate asked Lalit Modi to appear before its officers with records of the Board of Control for Cricket in India transactions. Modi said he was willing to appear via video-conference and could not travel to India in view of the security threat. In March 2011, his passport was revoked on the ED's request.

Lalit Modi used the Right to Information to access more information on the threat to his life. While seeking revocation of his passport, ED suppressed the fact from a court that Mumbai Police had confirmed there was a threat to Lalit Modi's security. The court took a serious view of this and while not commenting on the money-laundering cases against him, ordered that his passport be returned to him.

The revelations suggested that Lalit Modi did not leave India as a fugitive from justice though there are cases against him, but because he was afraid he might be killed. This was exactly what he argued before the British government to let him stay in the country even while his passport had been revoked.

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