Mumbai: A special PMLA court in Mumbai on Saturday summoned beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya to appear before it on 27 August on the Enforcement Directorate’s plea seeking action against him under the fugitive economic offenders ordinance in the over Rs9,000 crore bank fraud case.
Special judge M.S/ Azmi, dealing with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, issued the notice to Mallya after taking cognisance of the second ED chargesheet filed against him recently and a subsequent application by it on 22 June seeking a fugitive economic offenders tag.
This is the first time that action has been initiated under the ordinance recently promulgated by the Modi government to deal with fugitive bank loan defaulters.
The agency has also sought immediate confiscation of assets worth around Rs12,500 crore of Mallya and other fugitive economic offenders, they said.
If Mallya does not appear before the court, he risks being declared a fugitive economic offender, besides properties linked to him being confiscated. The court had earlier issued non-bailable warrants against the beleaguered businessman in the two cases filed by the ED.
Mallya, his now defunct venture Kingfisher Airlines Limited and others availed loans from various banks during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance-I government and the outstanding amount, including interest, against him is Rs9,990.07 crore at present, the officials said.
Mallya had recently said that he has become the “poster boy" of bank default and a lightning rod for public anger. He said he had written letters to both the prime minister and the finance minister on 15 April 2016 to explain his side of the story. “No response was received from either of them," Mallya, who is based in London, had said in a statement.
“I have been accused by politicians and the media alike of having stolen and run away with Rs9,000 crores that was loaned to Kingfisher Airlines (KFA). Some of the lending banks have also labelled me a wilful defaulter," he said.
The ED has furnished evidences in its two chargesheets, filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the past, to make a case for seeking a fugitive offender tag for Mallya from the court.
Mallya is contesting the money laundering charges in London after India initiated extradition proceedings against the liquor baron to bring him back to the country. Both the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have filed cases for alleged loan default against him.
The Modi government brought the ordinance as “there have been instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings".
The ordinance has provisions for special courts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender and order immediate confiscation of assets.
“A fugitive economic offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution," the government said.
The cases of frauds, cheque dishonour or loan default of over Rs100 crore would come under the ambit of the ordinance. The measure offers necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal before a high court.