NEW DELHI: The Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday issued a clarification after reports said fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya was spotted at a book release event at the London School of Economics earlier this week that was attended by Indian High Commissioner Navtej Sarna.
“When the High Commissioner spotted Mallya in the audience, he left the stage and venue immediately after making his comments and without waiting for the interactive session,” the MEA said in a statement issued by its spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
The LSE had written to Sarna, saying it had not invited Mallya to the event that was “advertised widely through social media and attendees were not required to register in advance,” the MEA added.
The event was held on June 16 by the 100-foot Journey Club of the South Asia Centre at the London School of Economics, set up as a collaboration between the Indian High Commission and LSE last month as a forum to discuss and debate issues of contemporary relevance within the India-UK sphere.
Suhel Seth, whose book Mantras for Success: India’s Greatest CEOs Tell You How to Win that he co-authored with Sunny Sen was launched at the event, said on Twitter that it was an ‘open invitation’ event that anyone could attend. After realising Mallya was in the audience, Sarna left before the Q&A, expressing displeasure, he added.
“Mallya was certainly not an invitee to the reception at the High Commission for which the invitations were issued by the High Commission, and was not present. 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 list of invitations for the LSE event was determined by LSE. They have written to the High Commissioner that Mallya was not on their list,” the MEA statement said.
On June 14, a special court in Mumbai declared Mallya a “proclaimed offender” in a bank loan default case against him. The Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the case, had made the request before the court saying this would facilitate his deportation from the UK.