Declared a proclaimed offender and wanted by law enforcement authorities in India, former liquor baron Vijay Mallya was Thursday spotted at an event in London co-hosted by the Indian High Commission.
Indian High Commissioner Navtej Sarna was in attendance at the event. While the incident sparked a row on Saturday, the government said Sarna “left the stage, and the venue immediately after making his comments” after spotting Mallya there.
Mallya had not been invited by either the High Commission or the London School of Economics, which co-hosted the event.
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Explaining Mallya’s presence, Indian officials said it was an “open event” and did not need any invitation.
Responding to questions, Vikas Swarup, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said there were “two clear segments — the book launch by UK Minister Jo Johnson and discussion at LSE, and later a reception at the High Commission for select guests. The invitations for the LSE event was determined by LSE. They have written to the High Commissioner that Mallya was not on their list. They have also said the event was advertised through social media and attendees were not required to register in advance.”
When Sarna spotted Mallya in the audience, Swarup said, “he left the stage and the venue immediately after making his comments, and without waiting for the interactive session. Mallya was certainly not an invitee to the reception at the High Commission, for which invitations were issued by the High Commission.”
The event in question was the release of Suhel Seth’s book ‘Mantras for Success: India’s Greatest CEOs Tell You How to Win’, organised by the 100 Foot Journey Club.
“It was an open event at the LSE (and) it was not as if there were specific invitations to every human being present there,” Seth told The Sunday Express over telephone from London. “It was advertised by LSE on Twitter. I had also tweeted about it — he (Mallya) came for that.”
Seth said there was a reception by the Indian High Commission after that, for which Mallya was not invited. “I don’t know why people are hyperventilating. Anybody could walk in — there were random people there, people I did not know,” he said,
Later, on email, Seth said, “Yes (he attended), the book launch at The Old Theatre at the LSE and NOT (sic) the formal reception at the High Commission because that was a by-invitation event whereas the book launch was an open event advertised on the LSE Events and (on) my timeline. The event was organised by the LSE.”
Earlier this month, a special court in Mumbai declared Mallya a proclaimed offender following an Enforcement Directorate plea. The ED had informed the court that it could not execute a non-bailable warrant against Mallya since he was not in the country.