THE Lalit Modi chronicles are turning darker day by day. After the media expose of the unusual and secret assistance given to the kingpin of the multi-crore IPL betting scam faces by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, new revelations have come implicating Buckingham Palace in his support. Emails accessed by the British media have revealed that the kingpin had ‘close’ connections with British royal members. According to new clues, Lalit Modi asked Prince Charles and his younger brother Prince Andrew for help in securing travel papers for which Sushma Swaraj finally agreed to help. Prince Andrew reportedly visited Lalit Modi, despite the fact that he was being investigated by Indian authorities for money laundering, on July 21 at his seven-storey townhouse in Chelsea – a few days before his travel documents were granted following an intervention by Keith Vaz, an Indian-origin MP in the UK. On August 1, 2014, Lalit Modi sent out an email to multiple recipients confirming that he had received his travel documents. Was it the fear of possible implication of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew in meeting Lalit Modi why the UK government refused to conduct a probe against Vaz despite his public admission that he had helped Modi get his documents?
Buckingham Palace officials of course, like Swaraj and Raje, deny having helped Modi procure travel documents. But they admitted that private meetings and conversations of members of the royal family took place with Modi. They also admitted that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla had met Modi on a few occasions at charity functions. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has known Lalit Modi over a number of years. Their defence – “The duke is fully aware that policy and decisions relating to immigration issues are a matter for the Home Office. It is categorically untrue that he has sought to influence decisions on these issues” – is hardly convincing. It could be true that Prince Andrew had not accepted any hospitality or gifts from Modi, but it is hard to believe that he was not aware that he was a fugitive being sought through the Interpol by India. The British royalty cannot be supposed to be so naïve. The Buckingham Palace needs to give a more convincing explanation on the princes’ relationship with Lalit Modi and any misuse of their offices to extend favour to him in procuring travel documents.
Ironically, even as political parties and media in India and the UK were discussing Swaraj’s ‘misdemeanour’, Lalit Modi was partying with Bollywood stars in the idyllic setting of Venice. His Instagram feed showcased glitzy photos from the parties attended by Jaya Bachchan, film director Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri, VJ-actress Sophie Choudhry and designer Manish Malhotra. Considering the serious charges of economic offences he faces and the light blue corner notice given out by the Indian government to Interpol for nabbing him, many would have thought Lalit Modi must be having a terrible time trying to hide. But the reverse is true. He is having the last laugh. If you take a closer look at Modi’s Instagram timeline you will discover that all this while he has been on mega-holiday. From exotic islands to historic European churches, Modi appears to have had a gala time everywhere. The height of irony is that it is not he who is cowering and panicky. It is the high and mighty with whom he has developed close relationship using his money power and networking skills who are. While he sleeps soundly, everyone big and famous is spending sleepless nights thinking whose name he might spill next.
FEARLESS journalism and the penchant for investigative news can neither be throttled by a group of cops under the patronage of a minister nor by a gang of illegal miners. If you thought lawlessness was the order of the day in Akhilesh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh, sample this: A 40-year-old journalist from Madhya Pradesh was allegedly murdered by three persons involved in illegal sand mining who kidnapped him and set him ablaze apparently over his refusal to withdraw a court case. The burnt body of Sandeep Kothari, who was abducted from Katangi tehsil in Balaghat district two days back, was found dumped in a farm at Butibori area in Nagpur on Saturday night. Kothari was working as a tehsil correspondent for some Jabalpur-based Hindi dailies. The cops in this case were quick to arrest three persons, but the UP minister who is allegedly involved in the killing of a journalist from Shahjanpura is still ‘absconding’. Journalists across India must unite to fight for stopping political savagery against mediapersons.