Transputec chief Rickie Sehgal (pictured) has spoken out to clear his name, a year after he was stung by a Mail on Sunday (MoS) reporter posing as a businessman.
Sehgal was chairman of the British Asian Conservative Link (BACL), which staged fundraising events to increase the number of Tory MPs in the UK and source suitable potential candidates from the Asian community.
He explained the MoS reporter approached him in early January 2012, wearing a hidden camera, and asked probing questions about how he could get access to senior Tory party members, including the Prime Minister, at the fundraising functions organised by BACL.
An extensive article then appeared on the paper’s site, claiming Sehgal had said he could supply Cameron’s phone number for £10,000.
However Sehgal, after a year of silence, has come forward to say he was set up and in fact didn’t make any such claim.
“Very few people have David Cameron’s mobile number, especially not me, so how could I sell it for £10,000?” he said. “I was set up”.
He explained to CRN that at the time the plan was to morph the BACL into a new group called the Conservative Friends of India (CFI), which would be affiliated with the Conservative Party and set to launch in May/June 2012.
This organisation, he said, would have a top tier of 12 executives appointed by invitation or by merit, who would each contribute £10,000 to power the administration of the organisation.
“The launch would be attended by David Cameron, George Osborne and other senior political champions,” he said. “This is what I was explaining to this man, who I thought was a genuine businessman and just the type of person we were looking to join our group.”
Sehgal said the story had a negative effect on him as a businessman, but he was advised to stay silent by lawyers and by the Conservative Party, which also advised him to resign immediately as chairman of the BACL.
“I felt angry at the time because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I felt confused because I came to realise very suddenly that despite many years of effort, the party-political machinery went into defensive mode and detached itself. I understand why though. But to bring the Transputec name into the story was wrong. This was something completely detached from my business, something I did at weekends and evenings.
“It has made me far more aware and a lot less naïve, and despite having support from many parts of the BACL and my friends, it has made me a lot more guarded in allowing my natural enthusiasm and passion to show through. But it has also made me more open – I make sure people are aware of this story upfront. I would rather that than it crept up as a negative further down the line.”
He said the incident also hadn't quoshed his passion about politics.
"I still feel the same way about the Conservative party. The party is synergistic with my values and beliefs," Sehgal said.
He also praised Transputec staff and customers, who he said stood by him through the difficult times. “The staff were excellent – extremely supportive – because they knew me as a person.” But he also said he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of customers.
“Some of the customers that I expected to lose actually stuck by me,” he said. “And these were customers in the public sector. I was very impressed and grateful to them for exercising common sense instead of listening to tittle tattle published in the national press.”
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