New Delhi: Beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines has defaulted on loans of over Rs 9,400 crores and who has taken refuge in Britain, on Friday suffered a major blow when his diplomatic passport was suspended by the government which has threatened to revoke it.
To add to his misery, the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing money laundering charges against the flamboyant 60-year-old liquor baron, today moved a special PMLA court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable warrant against him in connection with a Rs.900 crore IDBI loan fraud case.
The passport of Mallya, who is an MP and has been in Britain for over a month and has refused to appear before the ED, was suspended by the External Affairs Ministry on the recommendation of the agency. "On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the Passport Issuing Authority in the MEA has today suspended the validity of Vijay Mallya's diplomatic passport with immediate effect for a period of 4 weeks, under Section 10 A of the Passports Act, 1967.
"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," MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Mallya, who had refused to appear before the ED on three occasions when summoned between Mar 10 and April 2, had left the country on March 2 the day the consortium of 13 banks that had lent him money had closed in on him by moving the Debt Recovery Tribunal. The consortium also later rejected his offer of paying an initial installment of Rs.4,000 crore and settling the rest of the amount later. Failing to respond to the ED summonses, Mallya had repeatedly sought fresh dates but the agency declined any further relief.
Sources said the action against Mallya was taken as government was seriously concerned about the misappropriation of funds of banks by willful defaulters and fraudsters and identified the Kingfisher Airlines as one such. They said as of February this year, the Airlines has dues to the tune of Rs 9,432 crore and it has willfully defaulted on paying back to the consortium of 13 banks.
As Chairman of the airlines, Mallya was instrumental in taking important decisions pertaining to the affairs of the company including getting loans for it from the consortium. It was noted that despite summons by ED to Mallya to join investigations on March 10 and 15 as also April 2, he was deliberately avoiding his personal appearance, which is a statutory requirement before the agency, in defiance of due procedures.
Several aspects of irregularities and criminal misconduct allegedly committed by Mallya including his role in the offence of money laundering have come to surface, the sources said, adding that they are under investigation by multiple agencies. Thus, his failure to appear before the investigating authority under Prevention of Money Laundering Act is tantamount to willful non-compliance and intended to deliberately scuttle the process of investigation.
Against this background, the ED moved the MEA for revocation of his passport. The sources said the government is committed to brining to book willful defaulters and to recover public money from them. While the loans issue is being investigated by 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.
In Mumbai, an ED official said, "We have moved the court seeking NBW against him and the hearing is likely to take place tomorrow."