CBI ignored immigration alert on Vijay Mallya leaving country
The immigration bureau had alerted the CBI about Mallya’s departure on March 2 but did not stop him because there was no arrest warrant against Mallya.india Updated: Mar 11, 2016 12:06 IST
The CBI, which is facing heat over letting liquor baron Vijay Mallya go abroad, had changed the nature of the lookout notice against him within a month from seeking his detention while leaving the country to that of merely asking for information about his travel plans.
The Bureau of Immigration had alerted the CBI about Mallya’s departure on March 2 but did not stop him because there was no arrest warrant against him.
The status of look-out circulars depend on the issuing authority and unless they ask the immigration bureau to detain a person or to stop him from boarding a plane, no action is taken. The CBI apparently did not seek to detain Mallya or stop him from travelling abroad and every time he travelled, the agency was duly informed.
According to sources, the CBI in its October 16, 2015, request to issue a lookout circular 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 circular where it asked the immigration bureau to inform it about Mallya’s departure and travel plans.
The sources said Mallya travelled abroad in October and returned in November, made two trips in first and last week of December and went abroad in January besides the recent trip reportedly to London on March 2.
The information came as further embarrassment to the agency which has been accused of going soft on Mallya, facing a probe for defaulting on repayment of a loan of Rs 900 crore taken from IDBI.
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 CBI and that is why itI did not seek to impound his passport to stop his movement abroad.
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.
Last October, the CBI had registered an FIR naming Mallya and former KA chief financial officer A Raghunathan for allegedly not returning a Rs 900 crore loan taken from the Mumbai-based public sector IDBI bank. The FIR also mentioned unknown IDBI officials who allegedly colluded with the accused defaulter.
The ED, on the other hand, is likely to target such assets of Mallya’s that could be proven as “proceeds of crime in the period, when the loan was taken that is during 2006 to 2012,” said an ED source. The source said the ED may move to get assets equal to the amount of the crime’s proceeds, which is Rs 900 crore in the IDBI case, attached with the trial court’s permission.
“ED has just registered a PMLA case against Mallya and his defunct airlines company and the investigations are yet to reach the stage where the agency could have requested for impounding of his passport,” said the source.
The source said when required the ED will summon Mallya thrice to give him sufficient opportunities to join the probe.
“If he chooses not to present himself before for questioning, ED will move the court against him for non-compliance and get his assets, which may be proceeds of the alleged crime, attached,” he said.
“Because of the PMLA case, ED will be more interested in his assets, the proceeds of crime, than the accused himself.”
The CBI had searched Mallya’s residential and official premises in October 2015 in Mumbai, Goa and Bengaluru and questioned him in December. It is also likely to widen its probe against Mallya’s long grounded Kingfisher Airlines (KA) by taking alleged defaults on additional loans worth Rs 3100 crore from 10 more public sector banks under its scanner.
The CBI is also likely to seek help from overseas authorities to verify allegations of “unspecified diversion” of a portion, equivalent to around $200 million, of the total loan sum to tax havens. Cayman Island and Mauritius are among the tax havens under the agency’s scanner, according to a CBI source.
The agency is scrutinising records connected with the recent categorisation of KA as an alleged “willful defaulter” by three public-sector banks - State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and United Bank.
The CBI has asked IDBI to explain why it gave the loan to the airline, ignoring its own internal report and a board member’s reservations that had allegedly warned against such a step. The debt-laden airlines stopped operations in October 2012.
It will also examine if the loan was diverted to unspecified purposes including management of T-20 cricket teams in the Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.