A fresh controversy erupted Sunday in the Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj scandal after Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria admitted that he had met the tainted ex-IPL boss in London in 2014 on the insistence of the latter's lawyer.
Maria came out with a statement to say this after news channels flashed a photo of the former IPL commissioner and the Mumbai Police chief.
During the meeting that lasted 15 to 20 minutes, Modi sought the help of Mumbai police in view of "threat" to his life by the underworld in London, Maria said, adding that he apprised the then Home Minister about the meeting soon after returning from London.
"In the month of July 2014, I officially attended a conference in London. At the conference, I was approached by an advocate representing Lalit Modi who stated that Lalit Modi wanted to meet me regarding a grave threat to his life and that of his family in London," Maria said in the statement.
Modi, the first Commissioner of Indian Premier League, and others are facing probe by Enforcement Directorate in the alleged forex violation cases. "It may be recollected that as Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Mumbai, in year 2009-10, the crime branch under me had foiled an attempt on his (Modi's) life by the Mumbai underworld," Maria said.
"As per the lawyer's insistence, we met, albeit briefly, wherein Lalit Modi sought the Mumbai Police's help as he and his family were being threatened by the underworld," the statement said.
Maria said he "categorically" informed Modi that Mumbai Police has no jurisdiction in London and that he should return to Mumbai to lodge a formal complaint. "Lalit Modi repeatedly kept requesting for Mumbai Police's intervention against the underworld. I reiterated to Modi and his lawyer that it was imperative for Lalit Modi to return to Mumbai for the Mumbai Police to initiate any inquiry. Thereafter, the meeting lasted barely for 15/20 minutes," the Police Commissioner said.
Explaining his position, Maria said he had immediately brought details of the meeting to the notice of the Home Minister on his return to India.
"I also maintained the requisite confidential record of the same. Besides, the Anti-Extortion Cell of the Mumbai Police was also given in writing the details of what had transpired in the meeting for discreet inquiry at their end," he added.
Modi has been embroiled in a row after it came to light that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had facilitated travel documents for him in London and that Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had reportedly favoured Modi's immigration plea in a London court.