Vijay Mallya arrested, gets bail in ED money laundering case
London/New Delhi: Business tycoon Vijay Mallya was arrested for the second time by the British police on Tuesday, this time in a case of alleged money laundering brought by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The charges are part of an investigation into defaults of loans worth around Rs9,000 crore by Mallya’s defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
The flamboyant millionaire was presented before the Westminster Court and later released on bail until 4 December. He was arrested earlier on 18 April based on a chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and later released on bail. The CBI also filed an extradition plea in London, where Mallya is currently residing.
The 61-year-old former liquor baron, who appeared in court, said “No” to the chief magistrate’s query on whether he agreed to be extradited to India. The next hearing is scheduled for 20 November.
The Crown Prosecution Service, which acts on behalf of the Indian government, said in a statement: “The existing timetable was adopted and Dr Mallya was bailed to 4 December when his extradition hearing is listed to begin at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.”
A visibly pleased Mallya said after the hearing that he was facing many “extraordinary charges” but asked journalists to wait for the court’s ruling at the end of the extradition trial.
“I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them,” Mallya said. “I have not eluded any court. If it is my lawful duty to be here, I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I’ve given enough evidence to prove my case.”
The money laundering charges, authorities in India believe, make the case for an extradition stronger. According to an ED official who asked not to be identified, Tuesday’s arrest was based on the allegations of money laundering in the Kingfisher Airlines loan default case. CBI’s case, on the other hand, is based on charges of criminal conspiracy and fraud.
In June, ED filed a chargesheet under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a PMLA court in Mumbai, stating that Rs413 crore of a Rs900 crore loan given to Kingfisher Airlines by IDBI Bank Ltd was diverted through 13 shell companies. On 25 September, ED stated that it was preparing to file a second chargesheet against him in the same court.
Mallya diverted most of the Rs6,000 crore he borrowed from a State Bank of India-led consortium of lenders to shell companies in half-a-dozen countries, ED officials said then. Mallya flew out of India in March 2016, six days before a group of creditor-banks led by SBI moved the Supreme Court to restrain him from leaving India. They also sought an arrest warrant against Mallya and a security deposit to ensure his presence at the debt recovery tribunal proceedings in Bengaluru.
Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005. In 2008, he acquired Deccan Aviation Ltd, driven by the urge to fly international routes (Indian rules at the time allowed only airlines that had been in existence for five years to fly international routes and Mallya was in a hurry). But the timing of the acquisition was bad. The global financial crisis hit Kingfisher hard; as did soaring oil prices. By 2012, Kingfisher was in deep trouble, despite a sweetheart debt restructuring deal by banks. In late 2012, the airline had been grounded.
PTI contributed to this story.
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