‘No intention to return’: Court on declaring Mallya fugitive economic offender
Mallya was declared as Fugitive Economic Offender under the FEO Act by special judge, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, M S Azmi on January 5. The order running into 55 pages was signed on Saturday where the court rejected Mallya’s defence that he wanted to repay his loan.
A special court that declared business tycoon Vijay Mallya as Fugitive Economic Offender (FEO) has held that his claim for one time repayment of dues has nothing to do with the proceedings to declare him a fugitive and confiscate his properties. It also held that Mallya’s conduct suggested that he had no intention to return to India.
Mallya was declared as Fugitive Economic Offender under the FEO Act by special judge, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, MS Azmi on January 5. The order running into 55 pages was signed on Saturday where the court has rejected Mallya’s defence that he wanted to repay the loan amount.
The ruling was the second blow suffered by him within a matter of weeks.The Westminster Magistrates Court in London on December 10 ordered his extradition to India on an application by the Indian government. It’s now up to the UK foreign secretary to decide whether he should indeed be sent back to India .
Mallya, 63, who in his flamboyant heydays was known as the ‘king of good times,’ flew out of India to the UK in March 2016 as banks owed Rs 9,000 crore by his Kingfisher Airlines, grounded in 2012, closed in on him. The businessman is also sought by the ED, which investigates foreign exchange rule violations and money laundering.
Mallya’s legal team, while contesting ED’s demand to declare him fugitive, argued that they are ready to sign a consent term and settle the loan. Mallya had also announced that he would return after March 2016 as he was trying to make arrangement to repay the loans. The court had discarded all his pleas claiming it to be nothing but “his tall claims”.
“In his (Mallya’s) reply to the ED, he suggests that he was taking efforts for one time settlement and therefore he is unable to attend personally for investigation. The reason given itself suggests that Mallya was avoiding to join the investigation. He had not given any definite date when he will join the investigation,” the order said.
It goes on to state that Mallya had not given any time frame to settle his dues, and by his own admission to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), Mallya was to return at the end of March 2016, and that his failure to return demonstrates that he had no intention to do so.
The special court has also rejected Mallya’s defence that he had left India to attend a prescheduled event and did not return out of fear. It observed that “had it been the case that he departed India to attend a prescheduled meeting and was a law abiding citizen, he would have immediately informed the authorities about the schedule to return to India. Therefore, in spite issuance of repeated summons and warrants of arrests, he did not give a date of return. Therefore it would be unsafe to accept the argument that he departed India only to attend the prescheduled meeting. His overall conduct suggests his refusal to return of India to face criminal prosecution.”
Mallya’s lawyers had contended that the agencies had concealed the facts that he wanted to make one time settlement with banks and creditors and proceeded against him by filing cases out of political vendetta.
The court has dismissed this too, holding that a, “mere statement that the Government of India has pursued a political vendetta against him and initiated criminal proceeding and investigation against him cannot be ground for his stay in UK. The courts in India have to discharge their judicial functions as per law.”
“Besides this statement there is nothing to support as to how Government of India has initiated investigation and proceedings to pursue the political vendetta. Hence this argument in this regard is mere fiction of his imagination to pose himself as a law abiding citizen,” the judgment said.