While the debate over whether Sushma Swaraj should resign because of her role in helping Lalit Modi, an absconder and wanted in money laundering cases rages on, we outline the key developments that appear to put the external affairs minister in the dock.
1. When Swaraj wrote to the British Labour MP, Keith Vaz, to look into Lalit Modi’s request for travel documents, the Enforcement Directorate was still investigating the allegations of money laundering against the former IPL chairman. Modi’s passport had been revoked by then and he was deemed to be India’s fugitive on the run. Sushma’s request to facilitate Modi’s travel documents came weeks before the Delhi High Court’s decision to restore the latter’s passport. This, according to Sushma’s detractors, amounted to helping a criminal thereby making her position in the Union Cabinet untenable.
2. Sushma Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal, has been Lalit Modi’s lawyers for a number of years before her daughter Bansuri became a part of the latter’s legal team. According to Indian Express reports, Bansuri’s name has found prominence in couple of court judgments related to Lalit Modi. This included the judgment by a division bench of Delhi High Court on August 27, restoring Lalit Modi’s passport. A single judge bench had rejected Lalit Modi’s appeal against the Mumbai Regional Passport Office’s decision to revoke his passport in March 2011. The RPA had revoked his passport (No. Z-1784222) “in the interest of the general public”. Justice Rajiv Shakdher said that ED’s concerns “to protect the economic interest of the country in respect of which the allegation is that money to the tune of hundreds of crore has been parked by the petitioner outside the country, would require examination.” Bansuri’s name was mentioned in this judgement too, according to reports.
3. On Sunday, Sushma Swaraj took to twitter to say that she had helped Modi on ‘humanitarian ground’ as his wife’s surgery for cancer was scheduled on August 4, 2014 in Lisbon in Portugal. However, the travel documents that were issued to Modi were valid till 2016. TV channels have been showing several Instagram photos of Lalit Modi partying with celebrities like Paris Hilton during this period.
4. Just before Swaraj requested British government to clear Modi’s travel documents, he was fervently tweeting in favour of BJP. He had congratulated Amit Shah on his appointment as the BJP president and praised Arun Jaitley for his maiden budget as finance minister. This explain why the opposition Congress is going jugular against the the current government on this issue.
5. There are also allegations that Sushma Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal wrote to Modi asking if he could help him get his nephew admitted in Sussex University. Modi, reportedly wrote to Keith Vaz, “Mrs Sushma Swaraj called to see if we can do anything to help her nephew get into the law program at Sussex. Can you help with this.”
Vaz, in his reply, wrote to Modi “Sure, can you get him to send over his CV and name of Professor etc.”
6. On July 31, 2014, Vaz wrote to Sarah Rapson, Director General of UK Immigration, ““Foreign Minister of India has spoken to me making it very clear that the Indian Government has no objection to the travel document being granted which is contrary to what the refusal notice has stated. Mrs Swraj has also spoken to Sir James Bevan, who even though is on leave, said he will speak to the relevant person in the Home Office. Frankly everyone has been involved in this apart from Ban-ki-Moon.”
Many would find this referral quite extraordinary as even British citizens don’t enjoy this privilege. Any UK citizen placed in a similar predicament can, at best, approach his/her local MP before approaching the watchdog. For Vaz in his capacity as the chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee to make recommendation for Modi will surprise even British citizens. He is already been reported to the UK’s parliamentary sleaze watchdog for investigation as reported by Daily Mail.