Mumbai: Businessman Vijay Mallya was on Tuesday declared a proclaimed offender by a special court in Mumbai in a loan diversion case, a step government officials believe will help in efforts to bring the UB Group chairman back to India.
“Special Court PMLA, Mumbai issues proclamation u/s 82 of Criminal Procedure Code( CrPC) against Vijay Mallya,” the enforcement directorate (ED) said in a twwet on Tuesday.
The anti-money laundering court issued the order after ED, an investigation agency under the finance ministry, on Friday filed a petition over a case where the businessman is suspected to have diverted a Rs.430 crore loan given by IDBI Bank Ltd to his Kingfisher Airlines Ltd to purchase properties abroad.
The ED requested the court to issue an order under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and term Mallya a proclaimed offender, citing multiple arrest warrants pending against Mallya including a non-bailable warrant (NBW) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.
Mallya left the country on 2 March for London on a diplomatic passport.
“He cannot be deported till he is declared a proclaimed offender,” said an ED official requesting anonymity.
The ED now plans to send the court order to the UK authorities to start on the process of deportation. The court order will also help when authorities try to get a red corner notice issued against Mallya, said a second ED official.
A person is termed a proclaimed offender in a criminal investigation if the court believes that the accused has absconded or is concealing himself, so that the such warrant cannot be executed. According to the provisions of the CrPC, Mallya would be required to appear before the PMLA court and the investigation agency within 30 days.
In the first week of May, the UK had turned down India’s request to deport Mallya, but said it could consider an extradition request for him.
The UK government’s response came nearly a fortnight after India made a request for the deportation of Mallya, whose Indian passport was revoked in a bid to secure his presence for investigation against him under the PMLA Act of 2002.
The ED on 11 June attached properties worth Rs.1,411 crore of Mallya and his company United Breweries Ltd in a case of alleged diversion of funds.
Declaring Mallya a proclaimed offender will help in attaching more properties as part of the investigation, the second ED official cited above said.
This person added that the investigation agency can attach Mallya’s personal properties if he fails to appear before the ED in the next 30 days. This is under Section 83 of CrPC, he added.
The directorate has identified around Rs.4,000 crore worth of assets owned by Mallya.
To be sure, getting Mallya won’t be easy, experts say.
“In terms of legal sanctity, this verdict calling Mallya a proclaimed offender does not make the case of the former liquor baron any worse,” said Ramesh Vaidyanathan, managing partner at law firm Advaya Legal. “But it can further dent his reputation as the ED can now give embarrassing publicity to this order by splashing Mallya’s face in the media under the absconder tag. The order will even enable a private citizen to arrest him and hand him over to the cops,” Vaidyanathan said.
Vaidyanathan said that by virtue of the order, India may not be able to put pressure on the UK for the deportation of Mallya as they have already expressed their inability to deport the businessman, but agreed to help in extraditing him.
“Extradition is altogether a different ball game and not an easy one. However, this fact of proclaimed offender tag will help the ED to seek issuance of a red corner notice to Interpol to nab Mallya. Since Mallya was always a fugitive from law, ED could have got a similar notice issued against Mallya even earlier,” said Vaidyanathan.
However, Mallya on Sunday said that he is deeply pained to keep reading in the media that government agencies are planning further unprecedented action against him.
In an emailed statement, Mallya said that if the ED wishes to expand their scope to include all banks, Kingfisher Airlines will be happy to provide full details and cooperate with the investigation.
“It surely appears as if these agencies are pursuing a heavily biased investigation and are already holding me guilty without trial after which I need to prove my innocence. There is no rationale nor any legal basis for the series of actions initiated by the ED, which is now making it more difficult to raise resources to pay the banks. Purely civil matters such as loan recovery are being connected with criminal allegations without any basis whatsoever,” Mallya said.