Twin blow for Mallya: MEA suspends passport, ED seeks non-bailable warrant
New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs has suspended the passport of beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya. The move follows Mallya’s no-show for the third time to summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Rs 900 crore loan that he has failed to repay to IDBI Bank.
The development, which came as a big blow for Mallya, who fled to the UK in the heat of the probe, paves way for his return to India to face the music in a spate of cases against him ranging from loan defaults to money laundering. Mallya owes over Rs 9,400 crore to a 17-bank consortium led by the State Bank of India.
No sooner had the MEA announced the suspension of Mallya's diplomatic passport, the ED, which is probing cases of loan fraud and money-laundering against the former liquor baron, moved a special PMLA court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable warrant against him in connection with the Rs.900 crore IDBI loan fraud case.
The ED had earlier requested the MEA to take action under the Passport Act, 1967 and ask the Regional Passport Office (RPO) to revoke Mallya’s diplomatic passport, leading to its suspension.
"On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the Passport issuing authority in the MEA has today suspended the validity of Mr. Vijay Mallya's passport with immediate effect for a period of weeks, under Section 10 A of the Passports Act, 1967. Mr 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," an MEA statement issued in this regard on Friday read.
If Mallya 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, it added.
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) April 15, 2016
In its request to the MEA, ED said that Mallya had been "un-cooperative" with its investigators probing a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at its zonal office in Mumbai.
Last week, the agency had issued fresh summons – the third so far – to Mallya asking him to appear before it on April 9. This was after the former Kingfisher director sought two extensions from the earlier dates of March 18 and April 2 citing certain official reasons.
“We gave him a chance to cooperate in the investigation, but Mallya chose to disregard the summons,” an ED official said earlier.
Mallya fled to London last month as pressure mounted on him to repay bank loans amounting to Rs 9000 crore.
The agency, sources said, while making the request has also informed that despite cooperating with Mallya thrice by way of providing him fresh dates for personal appearance, the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case has only met with "non cooperation" which is leading to a delay in taking the probe forward.
Under the Passport Act, when a person is issued a diplomatic passport, their regular international travel document gets deposited and when a revocation is sought for the former is sought, the latter too gets cancelled.
Now that the ED request has been okayed, the MEA will move to inform UK authorities about the same and seek his deportation to India.
ED officials had earlier hinted that the April 9 summons could possibly be the last to Mallya as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) restricts such action to be undertaken for a maximum number of three times only.
It is understood that Mallya, while seeking the extensions, had informed the IO that cases related to bank loans were currently sub-judice in the Supreme Court and he was trying to settle these loans with the help of his legal and corporate team and, hence, would require some more time.
Mallya, who is facing legal proceedings for alleged default of loans, was last week directed by the Supreme Court to disclose by April 21 the total assets owned by him and his family in India and abroad.
The directions by the apex court came after a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India unanimously rejected his proposal, in the current form, to pay Rs 4,000 crore by September towards settlement of his loan.
The bench agreed with the consortium that Mallya's presence was necessary in the country to show his bona fides that he was serious about settling his dues.