The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is moving fast in its efforts to bring beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya within its jurisdiction as he has repeatedly failed to appear before the agency for questioning.
After suspending Mallya's diplomatic passport, the ED has moved a special court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable arrest warrant against him. The ED's plea is likely to come up for hearing on Saturday.
Mallya is under investigation for defaulting on bank loans worth Rs 9,000 crore and other financial irregularities. On the request of the ED, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday suspended the validity of his diplomatic passport for four weeks, on which he left for United Kingdom on March 2. He was given a diplomatic passport on the capacity of a sitting Rajya Sabha MP by the Delhi RPO.
“On the advice of the ED, the Passport Issuing Authority in the Ministry of External Affairs has today (Friday) suspended the validity of Mr. Vijay Mallya's diplomatic passport with immediate effect for a period of 4 weeks, under Section 10 A of the Passports Act, 1967,” the MEA said in a statement.
“Mr Mallya has been asked to respond within one week as to why his passport should not be impounded or revoked under section 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act, 1967. If he fails to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that he has no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation,” it added.
Mallya has failed thrice – March 18, April 2 and April 9 -- to appear before the ED seeking fresh dates However, the agency refused to entertain his requests for fresh dates further.
Responding to the last summon on April 9, Mallya had informed the Investigating Officer (IO) of the ED that he will be unable to appear before the agency as the cases related to bank loans are sub-judice in the Supreme Court.
Seeking more time, he had said that he was trying to settle the cases with the help of his legal and corporate team.
However, it wasn't enough to convince the ED, which in its written request to MEA has cited “non-cooperation” by Mallya, despite the agency's best efforts to accommodate his concerns. The agency has also pointed out various other loan-default and dishonouring of cheques cases against Mallya.
Thus, his failure to appear before the investigating authority under Prevention of Money Laundering Act is tantamount to wilful non-compliance and intended to deliberately scuttle the process of investigation.
On these observations, Mallya's diplomatic passport was suspended by the MEA.
The passport authority has asked Mallya to respond within a week's time as to why his passport should not be revoked or impounded. If he fails to respond or convince the passport authority, Mallya's passport will be cancelled and he will have no right to live in other country or travel outside India.
Following the new development, the government can also write to the UK, seeking to extradite him to India.
The ED still has an option to get a Red Corner Notice issued against him by the Interpol, which will pave the way for his arrest anywhere in the world.
While the loans issue is being investigated by the CBI on charges of criminal misappropriation, criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office is probing violations under the Companies Act and the ED under PMLA.
(With input from Agencies)