Over the years, India has seen several instances of key accused in high-profile cases escaping its shores to settle down in places elsewhere. HT takes a look at the three most prominent people who left the country in the midst of criminal and financial investigations.
On July 29, 2015, an FIR lodged by the CBI in Mumbai accused liquor baron Vijay Mallya, his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, and the company’s chief financial officer, A Raghunathan, of allegedly defaulting on a Rs 900-crore loan provided by Mumbai-based public sector IDBI bank. It also alleged that unknown IDBI officials had colluded with the accused entities in this regard.
Last October, the investigation agency raided the residential and official premises of Mallya – an independent Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka – in Goa, Bengaluru and Mumbai. On Monday, the Enforcement Directorate registered its own FIR in the case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act while the Debt Recovery Tribunal ruled that he could not touch a sum of Rs 515 crore – given to him as a separation fee from Diageo Plc after resigning from United Spirits – until the matter was settled.
Though the CBI got a look out circular (LOC) issued against Mallya on October 16 last year, preventing him from exiting the country, it did not request that his passport be impounded. In the third week of November, the CBI allegedly changed the LOC’s terms again – now only seeking to “monitor” Mallya’s travels to the extent that immigration authorities alert the agency if he made any move to leave the country.
On the afternoon of March 2, immigration authorities alerted the CBI to the fact that Mallya was about to leave for London by plane. The agency allegedly told the authorities to allow the former liquor baron a free passage.
However, according to the CBI, there was nothing new about Mallya making an international trip over the last six months. He had reportedly been allowed to travel abroad five times between October 16, 2015, and March 2, 2016, something the CBI justified by saying that he had presented himself before the agency for questioning whenever required during this period.
Mallya is said to be in the UK now, and his Twitter handle @’TheVijayMallya’ (with 4.96 million followers) has been fairly active. At 3.59 am on Friday, the former liquor baron tweeted in his defence: “I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish.”
At 4.12 am, he tweeted again: “As an Indian MP, I fully respect and comply with the law of the land. Our judicial system is sound and respected. But no trial by media.”
Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines have also come under the CBI scanner for allegedly defaulting on loans amounting to Rs 3,100 crore, taken from 10 banks.
The businessman isn’t an absconder yet, given that he has not been convicted or dishonoured any court or CBI/ED summons. However, failure to cooperate with probe agencies in the future may warrant attachment of his properties as well as an Interpol notice.
The Lord of Cricket
Former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi left India for his London home five years ago, in May 2010. The ED was probing around 15 cases of forex violation against him at the time, and had called him several times for questioning. The man never turned up.
The ED’s proceedings against Modi in 2010 were all related to the Foreign Exchange Management Act, a civil law under which the former cricket czar could not be arrested. The light blue corner notice issued against him at the behest of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence only meant that the authorities wanted to know about his whereabouts.
Modi’s passport was revoked in 2011, but restored by the Delhi high court three years later.
Last June, Modi came back into the spotlight when a controversy erupted over foreign minister Sushma Swaraj allegedly helping him acquire UK travel documents after his passport was revoked. Despite numerous reminders from the ED, Modi’s lawyers continue to insist that he cannot come to India due to “threats” faced by him and his family from the Mumbai mafia.
In August 2015, the ED asked Interpol to issue a red corner notice against Modi – something that would warrant his detention or arrest by UK authorities upon its publication. The ED’s request was in connection with a money-laundering probe related to the 2009 IPL edition, wherein the former cricket baron allegedly benefitted from a television rights contract.
Interpol, however, is yet to issue the notice. Indian authorities recently held a video conference with officials of the international agency, asking them to expedite the process.
The Carbide Man
Warren Anderson, then the chairman and CEO of the US-based Union Carbide (UC) Corporation, was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police on December 7, 1984 – four days after the toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the company’s Bhopal plant, killing 20,000 people.
However, Anderson was later granted bail, then allowed to leave India for the US after signing a Rs 25,000 bond. He never returned.
The probe into the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy was handed over to the CBI and, in 1992, a court declared Anderson a fugitive for failing to appear for hearings.
The CBI accused Anderson and 11 others of culpable homicide – a charge carrying a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The UC head’s case, however, was subsequently separated from that of the other accused. While eight UC officials in India were convicted, the charges against Anderson were curtailed to mere criminal negligence – which carries a maximum jail term of two years.
And yet, he did not return.
It was alleged that Anderson and the company’s top management overlooked the dangers of storing Isocyanate, and had pressed for cost-cutting steps that reduced the firm’s safety standards.
Nearly 19 years after the tragedy, India sought Anderson’s extradition from the US in 2003. The American authorities, however, turned it down – stating that it did not “meet the requirements of certain provisions” of the extradition treaty between the two countries.
An arrest warrant was issued for Anderson in 2009. The CBI tried to have him extradited again, in 2011, but it received the same response.
Anderson, a man allegedly responsible for the death of thousands, passed away at a nursing home in Florida in September 2014 – without spending five whole days in an Indian prison.