Release letter UPA wrote to chancellor Osborne on Lalit Modi issue: Chidambaram

Former finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday posed seven questions to the Centre on the Lalit Modi visa row. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supported external affairs minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj only after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supported her first, which shows who is the master. He also claimed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had written two letters to the UK government, asking it to send back Lalit Modi, but the letters did not get any ‘positive’ replies. He demanded the letters be released immediately.

On Swaraj’s asking British MP Keith Vaz to get Modi a UK travel document, Chidambaram said: “If she wanted to help Modi on humanitarian grounds, she should have told him to go to the Indian Embassy, since he is an Indian citizen and she is an Indian minister.”
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During his 25-minute press briefing here on Wednesday, Chidambaram did not accuse the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government of corruption, but said it is a case of “nepotism, abuse of authority, and violation of rules”.

Citing Finance Minister Arun Jaitely’s comment that the government is collectively responsible for the actions of the ministers, Chidambaram said he assumes Prime Minister Narendra Modi take responsibility of Sushma Swaraj’s act. Chidambaram also questioned how Lalit Modi could stay in the UK when his passport has been cancelled and why he is not being sent back to India. When asked how Lalit Modi left India during the UPA regime, Chidambaram said he had a valid passport then and that there was only an enquiry on him and no notice or proceedings were against him at that time.

Chidambaram asked what steps the Centre has taken to effect the summons by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and who took the decision to issue a fresh passport to Lalit Modi.

He said that on August 1, 2012, he was briefed about the cases being investigated by the ED, including the case concerning Lalit Modi. The ED reported Lalit Modi had left India and was in the UK with a valid passport. The ED had issued show-cause notices and summons to Modi, but he did not appear in person. The ED, therefore requested Chidambaram to take up the matter with his counterpart, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Chidambaram said he had discussed the matter at a bilateral meeting and written a letter to Osborne. However, the latter's response was in the negative. The finance ministry then sent another letter to Osborne, Chidambaram added.

The former finance minister said the letters exchanged between him and Osborne “are the best evidence”. He added, “Both the context and the contents will be known if the letters are made public.”

Chidambaram said the gist of the letters was that Lalit Modi was being investigated under the laws of India, but his passport had been cancelled and he had no right to travel outside India or to remain in the UK; therefore, the UK government should take steps to send him back to India.

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Chidambaram said he had discussed the matter at a bilateral meeting and wrote a letter to Osborne to which the latter's response was in negative and then the ministry sent another letter.

While stating that he is recalling the events from his memory, Chidambaram said the letters exchanged between him and Osborne are the best evidence. Both the context and the contents will be known if the letters are made public.

He said the gist of the letters was that Lalit Modi was being investigated under Indian laws, but his passport had been cancelled and he had no right to travel outside India or to remain in the UK and the UK government may take steps to send him back to India.

On the charges Lalit Modi made against the UPA government, Chidambaram said they are laughable and does not deserve a reply. The complete answer to the charges can be found in the letters exchanged between him and Osborne.

"In a way, Mr Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister, has repelled the charges by confirming that the ED was indeed investigating 16 cases against Modi and had issued show cause notices to him in 15 of those 16 cases. However, the matter does not end there".

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While stating that Swaraj's conduct in facilitating the issue of a travel document to Lalit Modi when his passport stood cancelled and he was avoiding an inquiry by the ED also raises a number of questions.

Seven questions to Centre

Chidambaram questioned, why the government, despite repeated demands, not releasing the letters exchanged between the Finance Minister and the Chancellor of Exchequer, UK?  If the EAM was inclined to facilitate Lalit Modi's travel to Portugal on humanitarian grounds, why did she (Sushma) not advise Modi to apply to the Indian High Commission in London for a temporary travel document to enable him to visit Portugal alone for a limited period?

Why did she feel that Modi, an India citizen sould have a UK travel document rather than an Indian travel document?

Wy did the EAM not insist that Lalit Modi should first return to India as a condition for issue of a tempoary travel document on humanitarian grounds?

When the division bench of the high court set aside the cancellation of Modi's passport, who took the decision not to file an appeal to the Supreme Court?

Was the ED, at whose instance the passport had been cancelled, consulted in the matter? Furthermore, who took the decision to issue a fresh passport to Lalit Modi?

Will the government make public the file notings on the subject? To stay in a foreign country, one requires a visa or a permit from that country, while passport is just a document to travel. Has the government of India lodged with the UK government its objections to the grant of a long term visa or residency permit to Lalit Modi who has refused to appear before the ED?

Chidambaram also questioned Modi now has an Indian passport, he is an Indian citizen subject to Indian laws. What steps has the government taken sicne the issue of a fresh passport to enforce the summouns is issued by the ED and what is the government' answer to Midi's wild charge that his life will be in danger if he returned to India? Is the NDA government incapable of protecting an Indian citizen who is required by the ED to appear for an enquiry?

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