The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday took possession of Mandwa Farms belonging to businessman Vijay Mallya whom the Indian government is trying to have extradited from the UK. The value of the 17-acre farm house is estimated to be around Rs100 crore, the ED said in a statement.
The property was provisionally attached by the agency in September as part of a money laundering probe against Mallya, who flew to the UK in March last year as lenders to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd (KAL) closed in on him to recover the Rs9,000 crore owed by the airline.
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) empowers the ED to take possession of a property six months after it is provisionally attached.
“If the attachment is not contested, then ED gets the possession of the property. However, in this case, the property was registered under the name of Mandwa Farms Pvt. Ltd, which led to the company contesting the possession,” an ED official said on condition of anonymity.
The directorate issued an eviction notice to the company in the month of April.
“Subsequent to the issuance of the eviction notice, Mandwa Farms Pvt. Ltd moved the Appellate Tribunal of PMLA for stay against the eviction notice. Honorable Appellate Tribunal dismissed the application of M/s Mandwa Farms Pvt. Ltd on 16/05/17,” the ED statement said.
ED has so far attached Mallya’s assets estimated Rs8,044 crore by market value. On 6 September alone, it attached assets to the tune of Rs6,630 crore in market value.
“Though the property (Mandwa Farms) was registered under some other entity’s name, we were able to prove that the property was controlled and maintained by Mallya. Considering that there is no ownership issues with other attached properties, ED would be able to take possession of those with relative ease,” said the ED official cited above.
Mallya’s UB Group declined to comment on the case. An email sent to Mandwa Farms did not result in a response immediately.
The ED is probing Mallya over the alleged diversion of a Rs900 crore loan extended to Kingfisher Airlines by IDBI Bank Ltd.
“We would be filing a chargesheet in IDBI loan default case of Rs900 crore against Mallya and KAL and its chief financial officer on charges of money laundering. Almost half of the loan amount has been laundered towards acquiring personal assets through shell companies,” said the ED official.
The Indian government is trying to have Mallya extradited from the UK through proceedings in which it is being represented by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London will be hearing the extradition plea next on 13 June.
The ED plans to use the properties it has in its possession to train its employees and for other official purposes.
“Benami Act allows the government to use the properties in its possession.. It helps in balancing out the money spent in maintenance of the property as government may need to release them if the courts rule in the company's or individual's favour. We are working to have similar arrangement for properties in our possession,” said the ED official.