EDITORIAL

Asylum for Rich Criminals

A new set of criminals—wealthy, well-connected and often in possession of passports of different countries—are on the prowl. They are often also confidence tricksters, considering the number of people in high places who have fallen prey to their crafty designs and well-planned schemes, and enabled them to secure fabulous loans with remarkable ease. We have instances of people like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, who have defrauded banks and helped themselves to thousands of crores of rupees of borrowed money, left the country in a hurry, hidden themselves in some other country and then sought asylum in the country that has often provided refuge to a whole lot of very stylish criminals in high places. And whenever such things happen, the government of India sends out red-cornered notices to empower police agencies all over the world to apprehend the criminals concerned and send them to India for trial. But we all know how rarely any of these red-cornered notices have succeeded in apprehending high-profile criminals and extraditing them to India for trial. It is only now that the UK government has set out some of the eligibility requirements for asylum-seekers. The document concerned says: “To stay in the UK as a refugee you must be unable to live safely in any part of your own country because you fear persecution there… This persecution must be because of your race; your religion; your nationality; your political opinion; anything else that puts you at risk because of the social, cultural, religious or political situation in your country, for example, your gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. You must have failed to get protection from authorities in your own country.” What is interesting about the statement is that it says nothing at all about people who seek asylum in the United Kingdom mainly because they have committed serious crimes in their own country. In fact, there are quite a number of people who seek asylum not because they are persecuted for their race, religion, nationality or political opinion, but rather because they have swindled banks in India of prodigious sums of money or committed other equally heinous crimes. What passes our understanding is that the United Kingdom should be so lenient about granting asylum to anyone who has fled his own country and sought refuge in Britain. What should have been realized long ago is that it is the high-profile criminal who defrauds banks and other financial institutions and then chooses to seek asylum in Britain because of the general impression that Britain is not too keen to extradite even known high-profile criminals merely because of the fear that some serious damage could be done to the image of Britain as a protector of all persecuted individuals. People have often wondered why Britain should be giving the impression of trusting the individual asylum-seeker entirely without any reference to the government of the country from which the refugee has fled. People like Vijay Mallya are adept at giving the impression that they are more British than Indian in seeking sympathy for someone falsely claiming to be persecuted by the Indian government. It is amusing to learn that Vijay Mallya has often claimed “inhuman conditions” in Indian jails to build his case against deportation to India. Does he honestly expect five-star comforts in jails for criminals like himself? Equally amusing is the claim made by Nirav Modi, the jeweller at the Centre of an alleged $2 billion bank fraud in India seeking political asylum in Britain. After all, what has his loot of $2 billion to do with any kind of political persecution? What makes most Indians justifiably angry is the slow pace of the proceedings against high-profile criminals in respect of their extradition and the attitude of the CBI and the British government in treating people like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi as ‘respectable’ individuals instead of as smart criminals—their true identities.