Former Union minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday reportedly admitted that he met the former Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman, Lalit Modi, and tried to convince him to return to India and face the law.
The veteran politician from Maharashtra, who also happened to be the chief of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said he had met Modi during a meeting in London in May, but the fugitive former cricket administrator cited threat to his life as the reason for his continued exile.
The septuagenarian leader was talking to NDTV a day after Modi named him among the ministers in the previous UPA regime who had helped him in the past. He said he ran into Modi at a London restaurant and asked him to come back to India and face the law.
"I bumped into Lalit Modi while having lunch at a London restaurant three-four weeks ago. I told him he should come back to India and face the law. He told me he feared that if he returned, his passport would be impounded again," Pawar told NDTV.
"Lalit told me there was a risk to his life based on a Mumbai police report. In the past I checked with the Mumbai police; there seemed to be substance to the fears," the TV channel quoted Pawar as saying as he defended Modi's charge during an interview to India Today TV that three ministers of the erstwhile UPA government had also helped him in the past.
Modi had said in the interview that Pawar, his party colleague Praful Patel and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla had offered him help, but he had refused.
Pawar and Modi had worked closely as part of the Indian cricket board. Modi has been living in London since 2010 after the BCCI imposed a lifetime ban on him for misconduct and indiscipline and the subsequent probe by Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering.
The controversy started after it emerged that the UK's senior Labour MP Keith Vaz had named External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in his communication with the British immigration department head as the person recommending for a visa to Modi to visit Portugal in connection with the treatment of his wife suffering from cancer.
Swaraj admitted helping Modi on "humanitarian" grounds. Later, Modi opened up about seeking help from Swaraj as well as Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje so that he could be with his ailing wife.