Labour MP Keith Vaz offered to help the nephew of Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj get a place on an undergraduate law course at the University of Sussex, emails leaked to The Sunday Times have revealed.
Sushma Swaraj’s nephew is currently registered as a student in the university’s School of Law.
In 2013, the Foreign Minister’s husband Swaraj Kaushal asked controversial cricket tycoon Lalit Modi if he could assist in his nephew’s admission to Sussex: “[he] will be very happy if he can get Sussex.” he wrote on August 26.
Three days later, Modi wrote to Labour MP 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 replied to Modi: “Sure, can you get him to send over his CV and name of Professor etc.”
The University of Sussex declined to comment specifically on the student involved, citing “data protection”. However, responding to an enquiry from The Badger, a statement sent from the Vice Chancellor’s press secretary stressed that all students “must meet the exacting standards required for entry to the degree-level programmes”, adding that the university “follows strict guidelines at all times” regarding its application process.
Further leaked correspondence reveals more about the relationships between Vaz, Swaraj and Modi.
Vaz cited Sushma Swaraj to the Home Office in an effort to speed up the granting of British travel documents to Lalit Modi in July 2014.
Multimillionaire Modi had been grounded in London since 2010 after the Indian Premier Leauge (that he founded) became embroiled in allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting.
His Indian passport was revoked after an investigation by India’s tax and money laundering authorities. He has denied any wrongdoing.
According to Vaz, Modi approached him in his capacity as chairman of the home affairs committee. He says he offered to help the tycoon obtain British travel papers because his wife had cancer and urgently needed treatment abroad.
The Home Office initially refused to issue the travel papers, apparently believing that Modi was still under investigation by the Indian authorities and afraid that granting the papers would damage relations between Britain and India.
Keith Vaz continued to make representations to the Home Office and the papers were eventually granted.
In an email sent in July 2014, Vaz said: “The foreign minister of India (Sushma Swaraj) has spoken to me, making it very clear that the Indian government have no objection to the travel document being granted.
“Mrs Swaraj has also spoken to Sir James Bevan who, even though he was on leave, said he would speak to the relevant person in the Home Office.”
Sussex Graduate Sir James Bevan is the High Commissioner to India.
Modi left the UK and posted pictures of a cancer centre in Lisbon on social media on August 4 2014.
He thanked his team in an e-mail describing Keith Vaz as a “super star”.
The Home Office has said that the case “was determined in accordance with appropriate rules”.