The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UK frees i-flex chief

New Delhi, May 15: With four days to go for Yashwant Sinha’s UK tour, Britain has dropped all charges against Senthil Kumar, the London-based chief of the Dutch subsidiary of i-flex, an Indian software company.

Britain refused permission to extradite him to the Netherlands, as requested by the Dutch government.

Diplomats here consider the decision to free Kumar, nearly two months after he was taken into custody, as London’s bid to not embarrass foreign minister Sinha when he comes visiting on May 19.

Agency reports from London said Kumar was discharged by a local court today after the Netherlands failed to convince Britain to launch extradition proceedings against him. “You stand discharged today,” the Bow Street magistrate’s court judge was quoted as telling Kumar.

India had been miffed at the way British authorities had arrested Kumar and taken him into custody after the Dutch government lodged a complaint against him.

“I feel good. I am relieved for the moment,” Kumar said in his first reaction after the verdict.

The Indian High Commission, too, expressed satisfaction that the “ordeal is finally over”.

Earlier, the solicitor for the Netherlands told the court that British home secretary David Blunkett had not given permission to go ahead with the extradition case.

Barrister Hugo Keith, Kumar’s lawyer, said his client was arrested on the basis the British home secretary would permit his extradition. “Kumar’s stand has been vindicated and there are no proceedings against him in this country,” Keith was quoted as saying.

The verdict clears the way for a hassle-free visit by Sinha, now in Moscow, who will attend the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meeting in London. The meeting will decide whether Pakistan and Zimbabwe, suspended from the council of the Commonwealth, should be taken back.

Malaysia flights

Malaysia is unhappy that the roughing of Indian infotech professionals in March has made New Delhi put on ice a decision to let Malaysian Airlines add eight more flights to India.

On May 21, Sinha will meet his British counterpart, Jack Straw, and other senior members of the Tony Blair government to discuss a wide range of bilateral and international issues.

An Interpol alert had landed Kumar in Brixton prison for a week in March after a complaint filed against I-flex in Amsterdam alleged that 14 of its employees were working in the Netherlands without proper work permits.

Kumar was also accused of having a hand in providing false references for a number of his employees in the Netherlands.

I-flex had said that the visa documents of all employees in Amsterdam were in order. They were on business visas while their work permits were being processed.

All the employees, however, had to return to India after the complaint.

Delhi had lodged a strong protest over Kumar’s arrest and charged the Netherlands of practising “neo-protectionism” by hampering the free flow of professionals and services under the World Trade Organisation rules.

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