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British passport to Srichand Hinduja sets off controversy

LONDON, JAN 21: The issue of British passport to the Hinduja group chairman Srichand Hinduja in 1999 has touched off a controversy here.Br...

Written by Press Trust Of India |
January 22, 2001

LONDON, JAN 21: The issue of British passport to the Hinduja group chairman Srichand Hinduja in 1999 has touched off a controversy here.

British newspaper Sunday Observer today said Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has sought an investigation to find out whether Peter Mandelson, Northern Ireland Secretary, had helped Srichand Hinduja and his brother to obtain British citizenship after they agreed to donate one million pound to bail out the millennium dome in London.

But Mandelson issued a statement last night denying he had lobbied for Hinduja to get a passport and said ‘‘to the limited extent that I was involved in this matter I was always very sensitive to the proprieties. The matter was dealt with by my private secretary. At no time did I support or endorse this application for citizenship.’’

In what Baker dubbed a ‘‘passports-for-favours’’ scandal, the newspaper said Mandelson approached the British home office to find out whether an application from Srichand Hinduja, who had already been turned down for a British passport, would be welcomed. Hinduja duly applied in March, 1999, and received his passport six months later — a third of the time a typical decision takes, the newspaper report said.

Seeking an investigation, Baker said, ‘‘We have a rich businessman in the middle of a corruption scandal who gets a British passport in record time after donating one million pound to the dome. It now appears the Minister responsible for the dome helped to get him a passport. We need a clear statement on who lobbied the home office on the Hindujas’ behalf and when,’’ it said.

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