Sunday, 15 January 2012

Asian Tory Activist in sleaze scandal

Chairman of British Asian Conservative Link thrown out of party after ‘cash for access’ sting
A prominent British Asian Tory activist has been thrown out of the party after being caught offering access to MP’s in return for cash.  50-year-old Rickie Sehgal, Chairman of the British Asian Conservative Link, was filmed by the Mail on Sunday bragging that he was able to obtain the Prime Minister’s personal mobile phone number if a donor paid GBP 10,000. 
He also claimed he could arrange for Tory MP’s to make personal appearances in support of business ventures, according to the MoS.  When confronted by the paper about his claims, Mr Sehgal said he was “deeply embarrassed” about his “boasts”, which he said he had exaggerated to impress the undercover reporter. 
Mr Sehgal was thrown out of the Tory Party Saturday night with a spokesperson warning the British Asian Conservative Link could also face being stripped of its right to use the official Conservative logo.  The BACL stages regular fundraising events to boost the number of Asian Tory MP’s and Mr Sehgal was most recently pictured whispering in Prime Minister David Cameron’s ear at the party’s lavish Black and White ball where tickets cost up to GBP1000. 
The revelation that Mr Cameron’s private contact details are being touted around for cash will raise fresh concerns over ‘cash for access’; a practice the Prime Minister pledged to eradicate before he came to office. 
Mr Sehgal was filmed by an undercover MoS reporter posing as a businessman who ran a cleaning company in East London.  The two men met at Mr Sehgal’s IT company Transputec Computers in Park Royal.  During the meeting Mr Sehgal claimed he had access to Mr Cameron to the extent that he can lobby the Prime Minister on behalf of parliamentary candidates from an Asian background.  He was filmed saying: “By association with BACL, we take advantage of positive discrimination that exists today to say there aren’t enough Bangladeshi MPs... I might go straight to the Prime Minister, or the central party.’
He also boasted of close links to other senior Cabinet Ministers, especially Baroness Warsi and Lord Feldman of Elstree, the joint chairs of the Tory Party, saying links to the pair also gave him access to Mr Cameron’s diary. 
“Andrew Feldman and Sayeeda Warsi, they are the two chairmens [sic] right, so they run the machinery of the Conservative Party.  They are like the administration, but they are very important because through them you see all the diaries of the PM, all the movements and things like that.”
And he claimed that he knew all Asian Tory politicians ‘like the back of my hand’, including rising Tory stars such as Priti Patel, the MP for Witham, and Alok Sharma, the MP for Reading West – both of whom were helped by BACL in their election campaigns.
Since its establishment in 1997, the BACL has been the Tories’ main contact with the Asian Diaspora community.  BACL has hosted a number of events at the exclusive Conservative Party haunt the Carlton Club where Tory politicians have been wined and dined. 
In 2009, Mr Cameron was guest of honour at Millbank Tower in Westminster at an event organised by Lord Popat, who was then Mr Dolar Popat.  BACL’s website said the tycoon ‘spared no expense in organising the event’. A year later, Mr Popat was made a Tory peer, leading to accusations of ‘cash for peerages’.
An MoS analysis of Electoral Commission records shows that Lord Popat donated £319,641 in the six years prior to being given a peerage.
BACL has three advisers who have all been honored for their work, according to the newspaper.
In June 2010 Dr Prem Sharma, a veterinary surgeon and father of Alok Sharma, who is the Tory MP for Reading West, received an OBE for his services to the community. Dolar Popat was made a Tory peer in the same year. The third adviser, cooking oil tycoon Rami Ranger, a founder of BACL, was awarded an MBE in 2005. Since 2005 Mr Ranger has donated £8,719.92 in his own name and through his company, Sun Mark Oil. 
According to the Mail on Sunday investigation, Mr Sehgal is the managing director of Transputec Computers Plc.  Transputec has IT contracts with both BACL and the Ministry of Justice. The company has an annual turnover of £20 million, and reported £375,000 profits for last year.
Records in Companies House show that its parent company, Investact, is registered in the Isle of Man, a popular tax haven with British businesses. Transputec appears to be a family business with Mr Sehgal’s wife, Pramilla, 52, listed as a secretary of the company. Mr Sehgal’s younger brother, Sunil, 48, is also listed as a director.

The MoS further found that in 2007, Sunil Sehgal and his wife Seema, 47, were accused by US authorities of being part of a ring that used insider information to buy options on shares in TXU, a Dallas electric power company, shortly before it was taken over by a private equity group in a £29 billion deal.  
In 2009, the Sehgals agreed to settle the insider trading charges. They did not admit or deny the allegations but agreed to pay huge fines. Sunil Sehgal was ordered to pay £171,070, including interest, and Seema agreed to pay £201,343.
- Vijitha Alles

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