The Enforcement Directorate (ED) will take a set of measures to bring back Vijay Mallya, who allegedly defaulted on bank loans worth Rs 9,400 crore, after Britain refused to deport the liquor baron on grounds that he has valid documents, sources said on Wednesday.
The UK government’s response came nearly a fortnight after India made a request for the deportation of Mallya, whose Indian passport was revoked in a bid to secure his presence for investigations against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002.
“The UK government has informed that under the 1971 Immigration Act, the UK does not require an individual to hold a valid passport in order to remain in the UK if they have extant leave to remain as long as their passport was valid when leave to remain or enter the UK was conferred,” the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
However, the UK acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations and expressed its keenness to assist India in the matter and asked the government to consider requesting mutual legal assistance or extradition.
“ED will expedite, via CBI, the process to get a Red Corner Notice issued by Interpol against Vijay Mallya that would necessitate his immediate arrest or detention across the world,” a source, who is not authorised to talk to the media, said.
The ED will approach the global police body with the request to issue the Red Corner Notice on the grounds that Mallya has a pending non-bailable arrest warrant and his passport has been revoked due to non-compliance with agency’s three summons to appear for questioning in the IDBI case.
ED’s fresh extradition request to the UK for Mallya will be made through judicial and diplomatic channels, said the source.
A non-resident Indian, Mallya possesses a residency permit to stay in the UK since 1992 and has a valid visa. Since Mallya’s passport stands revoked, he will have to remain confined to the UK, unless he acquires citizenship of some other country and hence a new passport as well.
While his exact whereabouts are not known, it is suspected he lives in a plush mansion ‘Ladywalk at Tewin’ in Hertfordshire near London.
The UK has said it would consider India’s request for extraditing Mallya as per a 1993 treaty and or provision of any other assistance under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) of 1992.
Another ED source said even after India’s request to the UK for Mallya’s extradition, the businessman might claim there was no malafide intent and the loan default happened because of Kingfisher Airlines’s commercial failure.
“Even if the UK approves the extradition once a request is made by India, Mallya can challenge that in the local courts, questioning the merits of the case against him,” he said.
The source said Mallya might argue that he apprehends discrimination or political witch-hunt against him in India to get a favourable decision.
“In deportation, the merits of the request are not examined thoroughly, but in extradition cases, the courts do that.”
Money-laundering is a crime in India as well as the UK.
According to the source, Mallya could have allegedly benefitted from liberal UK rules on the grant of residency permits.
“The UK gives a residency permit to businessmen if he or she invests a certain sum, around Rs 5 crore, in that country and employs a minimum of five workers for five years. He or she can also apply for citizenship later on such grounds,” he said.
The 60-year-old liquor baron, known for his flashy lifestyle, left the country on March 2 as the pressure on him to return the money mounted. The former UB Group chairperson and his defunct Kingfisher Airlines owe more than Rs 9,000 crore to 17 banks.
He is also facing a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into his Kingfisher Airlines’ default on Rs 900-crore loan from IDBI bank.
On March 7, the ED registered a money-laundering probe against Mallya on the basis of the CBI complaint. Both the agencies subsequently widened their probes to cover his default on the entire bank loans worth Rs 9,400 crore.
It was on ED’s request that a Mumbai court issued the non-bailable warrant against Mallya and the foreign ministry revoked his passport then requested the UK for his deportation.
On April 25, Hindustan Times reported even though that the foreign ministry may have revoked Mallya’s passport on the ED’s request, several officials said a long legal battle stood in the way of bringing the businessman back to India.
“The UK is a country that is not very open to deporting people as instances in the past showed,” a senior CBI official told HT on condition of anonymity.
There is an apprehension that India’s case against Mallya case might get stuck like in the case of ED’s probe against former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
In 2014, a Delhi court restored the passport of Modi, who is in the UK, under similar circumstances. The government had revoked the IPL founder’s passport after allegations of money-laundering in the cash-rich cricket league.