A special court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Vijay Mallya on Monday, mounting pressure on the embattled liquor baron who left the country owing more than Rs 9,000 crore in unpaid loans.
The court of justice PR Bhavke, which hears cases of money laundering, also rejected a plea by the defunct Kingfisher Airlines, challenging the Enforcement Directorate’s charge that he diverted nearly half of a Rs 950-crore bank loan to acquire properties abroad.
The warrant came days after the government suspended 60-year-old Mallya’s diplomatic passport on a request by ED which is probing money laundering allegations against the Rajya Sabha MP.
The flamboyant businessman, once known as the ‘king of good times’, left the country on March 2 as creditor banks closed in on him to recover dues running up to Rs 9,400 crores.
Mallya, who skipped three ED summons, said in a recent tweet that he is not on the run and will abide by Indian law. He is believed to be in the UK.
Shortly after the arrest warrant was issued, ED officials said they were considering other legal options such as getting a red-corner notice (RCN) or seeking his extradition from UK.
“There are options such as RCN, deportation and extradition from the UK,” said a source. “Mallya’s passport has already been suspended and now an NBW has been issued and hence there are grounds for deportation.” India and Britain signed an extradition treaty in 1993.
A red-corner notice is an arrest warrant circulated by Interpol on behalf of the government of a particular country. It is a request from one country to another to arrest and deport the wanted individual.
Sources said the quickest option is to apprise authorities in UK about the warrant issued against Mallya to facilitate his deportation. Another option is to push for a letter rogatory, a formal request from an Indian court to a foreign court for judicial assistance.
In its court plea before the warrant was issued, Kingfisher Airlines said it was “shocked at the allegation made by the Enforcement Department”.
“This fact may have a bearing in the mind of the court so we wanted to correct it and place it before the court. ED’s charges are false and incorrect,” said advocate Pranav Badeka representing Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased operations in 2012.
A group of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI) has already rejected his offer to repay part of the dues and told the Supreme Court they wanted him to return to India so they could negotiate with him personally over the total owed.
His massive debt has become a symbol of Indian banks’ vast volume of bad loans -- those already in default or close to it -- which are seen as a threat to financial stability in Asia’s third largest economy.
Critics say the government has not done enough to tackle the issue of wealthy individuals such as Mallya, who obtain huge loans which they later fail to repay.
The top court has also asked Mallya to disclose all assets owned by him and his family in India and abroad by April 21.
(With inputs from agencies)