Vaz faces sleaze probe for pushing Lalit Modi visa papers


Britain’s most senior Asian politician is facing a parliamentary enquiry for his alleged recommendation for Mr Lalit Modi, India’s controversial cricketing tycoon, the Sunday Times reported

Keith Vaz
Keith Vaz with Parliament Speaker John Bercow- File

Keith Vaz, MP from Leicester East, personally wrote to Sarah Rapson, the director- general of UK visas and immigration, in an effort to expedite the case of Mr Modi, founder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Modi was sacked from his post at IPL after corruption allegations including match fixing and broadcasting rights.

In leaked correspondence seen by The Sunday Times, Vaz offered to help with the immigration case of Modi, a multimillionaire who has been investigated by India’s tax and money laundering authorities.

Modi came to London in 2010 amid claims that the IPL cricket tournament was embroiled in alleged match-fixing and illegal betting. His Indian passport was later revoked, leaving him grounded in the UK.

Modi has always denied any wrongdoing and says he left India for Britain because of death threats.

Shortly after he received his papers last summer after a lengthy legal battle with the Home Office, Modi described Vaz as a “superstar”.

The correspondence also reveals that when Modi told Vaz he had been appointed to the advisory board of a luxury resorts company, the MP replied: “Good, we need a good holiday!” Vaz denied he had been offered or requested a holiday from Modi.

At the time of the recommendation to Mr Modi, Vaz was chairman of the powerful Commons home affairs select committee in which role he was required to scrutinise and hold to account the work of Rapson and her department. The approach on behalf of a wealthy and influential individual who was not one of Vaz’s Leicester East constituents — and which he did not publicly declare — could leave the MP open to charges of a conflict of interest.

Lalit Modi, former chief of India's Premier League Cricket
Lalit Modi, former chief of India’s Premier League Cricket

Mr Vaz is standing for re-election as the select committee chairman against the Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart. Vaz has strongly denied any conflict or impropriety and said he had treated Modi’s case no differently from hundreds of others in which he perceived there to be flaws in the immigration system.

But the Sunday Times said the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen wrote to Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, urging her to investigate whether Vaz had breached the MPs’ code of conduct and should face censure.

Vaz said Modi’s case was one of “hundreds” he had raised with the Home Office on behalf of individuals where he felt there was a wider problem with the immigration system — in this case a delay in the issuing of travel papers.

Vaz said he had referred Modi’s case to Greg Hands, his constituency MP in Chelsea, as a matter of protocol.

In a letter last June to Rapson, Vaz asked if “Mr Modi’s travel document could be made available”.

When Modi was eventually granted a certificate of travel last August, he thanked Rapson by email.

Vaz told Sunday Times: “There is no conflict of interest as I have no personal interest in this case and received no benefit from it. I actively encouraged people to bring to my and the committee’s attention examples of delays, inefficiencies and problems with the immigration system.”