The CBI, which is facing flak over allowing businessman Vijay Mallya to go abroad, had changed the nature of lookout notice against him within one month of issuance from seeking his detention while leaving the country to that merely providing information about his travel plans.
The information came as further embarrassment to the agency which has been accused of going soft on Mallya, facing a CBI probe for defaulting on repayment of a loan of Rs 900 crore taken from IDBI.
Sources said, in its October 16, 2015 request to issue a lookout circular, CBI had said if Mallya tries to leave the country, he should be detained at the exit point. Nearly a month later in November, the agency asked for a revised cicular where it asked the Bureau of Immigration to inform it about his departure and travel plans.
The sources said Mallya travelled abroad in October and returned in November, while he made two trips in first and last week of December and also a trip in January besides the recent trip reportedly to London on March 2.
The lookout circular depends on the issuing authority and, unless they ask BoI to detain a person or to stop him from boarding a plane, no action is taken. The sources said after CBI changed the lookout notice, BoI did not make any attempt to stop him from travelling abroad and every time he travelled the agency was duly informed about it.
When asked why CBI did not seek to impound his passport to stop his movement abroad, the agency sources said Mallya had been cooperating in the investigation by presenting himself for questioning, as and when required, and also providing documents sought by the agency.
The CBI sources said, according to a Supreme Court judgement, passport of a person can only be impounded when he has been chargesheeted or a trial is pending against him. Since he had been cooperating, there was no reason to stop him from moving abroad, they said, adding he had appeared for questioning thrice since the lookout notices were issued, once here and twice in Mumbai between December 9 and 12, 2015.
They also said the agency was keeping track of his movement but did not interfere as he always returned. CBI had registered a case against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines, chief financial officer of the airlines A Raghunathan, and unknown officials of IDBI Bank in its FIR alleging that Rs 900 crore IDBI loan was sanctioned in violation of norms regarding credit limits on the basis of complaint received from the bank.
Clarifying his position regarding the loan owed by KFA, Mallya, in a recent statement had said after the closure of the airline, since April, 2013, the banks and their assignees have recovered, in cash, an aggregate of Rs 1,244 crore from sale of pledged shares.
“In addition an aggregate of Rs 600 crore is lying deposited in the Karnataka high court (since July, 2013) and a further sum of Rs 650 crore belonging to United Breweries Holdings has been deposited in the Karnataka high court since early 2014, being sums realised from the sale proceeds received by United Breweries Holdings from the sale of shares in United Spirits to Diageo Plc in July, 2013,” he had said.
“Thus, the aggregate cash recovery/security available is Rs 2,494 crore,” Mallya said. The attorney general informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that he has been told by CBI that Mallya has left the country on March 2. The bench issued notice to Mallya and sought his response within two weeks on pleas filed by a consortium of banks seeking direction for freezing his passport and his presence before the apex court.