Vijay Mallya phoned lobbyist aide, asked for help to ‘manage his case’: ED
The Enforcement Directorate’s special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana made this stunning revelation before Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Anurag Sain at Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Courts while opposing Kapoor’s anticipatory bail in a money laundering probe related to Talwar’s NGO Advantage India.Updated: Feb 01, 2020 10:55 IST
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed a Delhi court on Friday that fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, currently facing extradition proceedings in London, last week spoke to Yasmin Kapoor, a close aide of aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar, asking her to “manage his case” in the Enforcement Directorate.
The agency’s special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana made this stunning revelation before Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge Anurag Sain at Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Courts while opposing Kapoor’s anticipatory bail in a money laundering probe related to Talwar’s NGO Advantage India. It is alleged that the NGO received ~90.72 crore under the CSR scheme for carrying out social activities but diverted this for some other purpose, with Kapoor playing an important role in the laundering.
She was earlier arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last September in the same case, after which ED also took her custody, but in connection with a separate case related to causing loss to Air India by favouring private airlines. However, after spending three months in jail, she was granted bail on December 13.
ED now wants to arrest Kapoor in the Advantage India case as it believes she is a key link to unearthing a larger conspiracy in Talwar’s deals. It has been alleged that Kapoor was shareholder or director in several shell companies created or controlled by Talwar.
Nitesh Rana, while showing the case files to the judge on Friday, informed the court that Vijay Mallya made a call from London to Yasmin Kapoor, asking her “if she knew ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra” and if she can help “manage his case”. To this, Kapoor told Mallya that she has no acquaintance with the ED director but she knows the “number 2” in the agency. Her phone was put under surveillance by ED.
Rana also showed to the court two-page transcripts of Yasmin Kapoor’s conversation with Mallya.
A senior ED official, who didn’t wish to be named, told HT “it appears that Mallya was in touch with Kapoor on more than one occasion. A female associate of Mallya was also calling Yasmin Kapoor”.
“Mallya’s call from London to Kapoor is strong evidence against him as well. We will convey to the UK high court in February, when his appeal against extradition comes for hearing, that he is trying to influence the investigation in India,” the officer added.
The ED officer also claimed that Kapoor’s reference to knowing “no 2” in agency was nothing but bragging.
HT was present at the Rouse Avenue court.
Mallya did not respond to HT’s email and text queries. Queries sent to his lawyer in London, Anand Doobay (Partner at Boutique Law LLP) on email and WhatsApp remained unanswered till late evening.
Asserting that Kapoor should not be granted anticipatory bail as she is capable of influencing witnesses and the investigation, Nitesh Rana argued: “Yasmin Kapoor’s past conduct has also been questionable as she has tried to influence and destroy the evidence earlier as well.”
“Since she came out on bail [in December], she has been trying to influence the probe,” he added.
Kapoor’s lawyer, senior advocate N Hariharan strongly objected to ED tapping her phone, saying it is “unconstitutional”.
Rana replied that “tapping was done after following due procedure” and that “if any evidence surfaces during the course of surveillance, it is my (ED’s) duty to place it [before the court]”.
The court has listed the matter for Saturday to decide whether Kapoor will get the anticipatory bail or not.
Questioning the admissibility of ED’s phone taps, N Hariharan said: “First of all, I don’t understand what they are trying to prove. Just for the sake of prejudice, you create something and place it before the court. How can an unrelated matter (Mallya case) be a ground in another matter? When there is nothing against her in an unrelated case, is ED trying to say she can’t talk to anybody?”
Hariharan added that “ED has already questioned Yasmin Kapoor in the case. Why does it need her custody now? There is nothing in the case”.
Interestingly, during her bail hearing on December 13, 2019, Kapoor’s lawyers told the court: “The applicant (Kapoor) is willing to give an undertaking that she will in no manner, whatsoever, interfere or attempt to interfere with the investigation or the process of administration of justice.”
ED claimed last year that it needs to interrogate Kapoor to unearth the “larger conspiracy”.
In a charge sheet filed on November 30, 2019, in the aviation case against Kapoor, ED had alleged they established laundering worth ~144 crore.
Deepak Talwar was deported from Dubai in January last year, after which he was arrested by ED; CBI took his custody in July. He is currently lodged in Tihar jail.
He is accused of receiving payments to the tune of ~272 crore during 2008-09 from private international airlines in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights using his contacts, allegedly causing state-owned Air India huge losses.
Both CBI and ED have claimed that he arranged kickbacks for the public servants to make Air India give up profit making routes in favour of private airlines.
A charge sheet is yet to be filed in the Advantage India case.