From property attachment to passport revocation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is considering a range of steps that can be taken against former liquor baron Vijay Mallya after he failed to appear before it for the third time in connection with a money-laundering probe.
The businessman had fled to London last month after pressure mounted on him to repay bank loans amounting to thousands of crores of rupees. The ED summoned Mallya thrice – the last date being Saturday – for questioning in a case involving an IDBI loan default of Rs 900 crore.
“We gave him a chance to cooperate in the investigation, but Mallya chose to disregard the summons,” said an ED source. “The ED is mulling options available within the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), such as moving court for a non-bailable warrant against Mallya, attaching his properties in India, and getting his passport revoked.”
Once the warrant is issued, the ED can seek the help of the Interpol or British authorities to bring Mallya back from the UK. The agency has sought feedback from a consortium of 17 public sector banks, to which Kingfisher Airlines owes Rs 7,000 crore in unpaid loans, on the former liquor baron’s plea for seeking time till May to clear his debts.
“It’s important to assess his motive, his intention. We need to know if he is just trying to buy time and delay the investigation, or has genuine constraints,” said the source.
The agency is looking into the merits of Mallya’s submission that his legal team can assist in the probe even in his absence.
A probe was first launched by the CBI into the IDBI bank loan default case last July, following which the ED registered a case against Mallya, former Kingfisher Airlines chief financial officer A Raghunathan and unknown bank officials under the PMLA. Ever since, both the agencies have widened their probes to examine the firm’s alleged default on loans worth an additional Rs 6,100 crore granted by 16 other public sector banks.
Mallya had sought two extensions on the previous dates of March 18 and April 2 provided by the ED. The agency usually summons an accused thrice under the PMLA before coming down heavily on him/her for non-compliance.
Mallya left India for the UK although the CBI had issued a revised look out circular – which mandated furnishing of information on his foreign travel – against him. As many as 17 public sector banks, including the State Bank of India, had petitioned the apex court to restrain Mallya from leaving India and impound his passport.
However, Mallya later tweeted from an unidentified location that he was not on the run, and would abide by the law. “I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder,” he had said.
The ED had registered a money-laundering case against Mallya on March 7.