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October 27, 2015

'Curry King' Lord Noon, of cash-for-honours fame, was a generous man

LONDON: The Indian British 'Curry King' Lord Gulam Noon is no more. He passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79. Often described as an 'honourable and generous man,' Lord Gulam was suffering from cancer for quite some time. He was one among those who had narrowly escaped from Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Noon had later suggested to Britain to act against Muslim extremists.

The Mumbaiwallah who created the desired taste for his Indian chicken tikka masala on the British palate, to eventually do a roaring business, and became a powerful tycoon and somebody in European politics step by step, owned a 200-million pounds Noon Products. He had befriended even Prince Philip.

Widely accused of giving donation for controversial Conservative and Commons Speaker John Bercow, the chicken tikka masala maestro and Labour sympathiser Noon had in recent years also come under a cloud of accusations of lending £250,000 to the Labour party in a cash-for-honours scandal over his Labour peerage. The ‘Curry King’ tycoon occupied the Labour benches in the House of Lords.

Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon, born in a Mumbai Muslim family, took over his family food business called Royal Sweets at the age 17. He emigrated to Britain in 1972 and established a sweet shop in Southall, gradually becoming the father of authentic Indian dishes in the UK. Subsequently Noon Products like ready meals and chicken tikka masala came into limelight.

He earned awards and honours like Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and was knighted in 2002. Recently Lord Noon had become the chancellor of the University of East London. Noon became a life peer in 2011.

"Today we have lost a giant, not only of the British Asian community, but also of British entrepreneurship. A decent, honourable and generous man, who was dedicated to his family, but also to his country, the United Kingdom," said Keith Vaz, an Indian-origin MP. "Rightly known as Britain's first 'Curry King', he brought curry to the high street. There are thousands of people in Britain, in India and throughout the world who have benefited from his enterprise, jobs he created, and his big heart. The world of cricket will also miss one of its most devoted followers."

"He was the epitome of everything a first generation immigrant can achieve, someone who literally came with nothing, but was also grateful to Britain for giving him the life chances to prove what an extraordinary man he was, whilst never forgetting his roots in India. Our community has lost one of its greatest stars," Vaz added.

NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul said in his condolences, that Lord Noon was a "good friend and a great colleague".

Paying tributes, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair described him as a “great character.”

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