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Raj era theft scandal covered up in Britain: Report

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Britain's then Clement Attlee, the chiefs of MI6 security service and Buckingham Palace aides all conspired to cover up one of the last scandals of the involving the theft of charity funds by one of its Governors posted in India, papers in the UK's National Archives have revealed.

Sir Arthur Hope, who served as the of Madras Presidency between 1940 and 1946, had been entrusted with donations to the

But in 1944, the British establishment became aware of his mounting gambling debts which led him to also misappropriate the funds intended for the charity, 'The Times' reported.

Hope reportedly had a passion for race-horses and tended to lose a lot of money on them, which led him to divert charitable funds to deal with mounting debt liabilities. The money he was thought to have siphoned off to settle his debts added up to 40,000 pound at the time.

According to the correspondence documents unearthed in the archives, when word reached Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of at the time, that some of Hope's creditors in wanted their money back, the British decided that the must be quietly removed from office.

"Hope's health, which has been indifferent for some time, affords reasonable cover," the Viceroy suggested.

A doctor's note was produced claiming that Sir Arthur, who was then 48, had "tropical neurasthenia", a diagnosis commonly given to white Europeans who disliked the colonial climate and wanted to go home.

was also briefed of his plan because the monarch's approval was required for a change in

However, it was feared if he stepped down while he was still in India, he could be sued and arrested over of his debts before he could board a ship for England.

"I feel it would be wise to get him out of the country before he actually resigns," Sir Patrick Spens, Lord of India, advised the Viceroy in a letter.

Hope eventually sailed back to England and the cover up proved successful as years later his obituary in 'The Times' read: "He was compelled by ill-health to resign before his extended term of office was complete."

The of the day was unable to sue him without exposing "the delinquencies of the King's representative", noted Sir David Monteath, the of State for and Burma.

In 1947, the year India gained its independence, then British PM Attlee approved a donation to the using British taxpayers' money in such a way that people would be unaware it came from the government in

It was agreed that paying 3,750 pound that had been missed by the charity would prevent Indians becoming suspicious about the rest of the money Hope had misappropriated.

MI6 was also reportedly kept informed of this arrangement, which will go down in history as one of the last major scandals of the British Raj.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 17 2019. 18:55 IST