India’s Foreign Ministry revoked liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s passport on Sunday (today) as the government stepped up efforts to bring him from Britain to face investigation in India, where he is wanted for alleged bank loan default and money laundering.
A report in today’s Hindustan Times said the ministry was not satisfied with the 60-year-old Rajya Sabha MP’s response to a ‘show cause’ notice that asked why his diplomatic passport should not be revoked or impounded. The Government of India had earlier suspended his travel document.
Besides, the enforcement directorate (ED) investigating his case had approached the ministry to initiate the deportation process after a Mumbai court issued a non-bailable warrant against Mallya on April 18.
“Having considered the replies furnished by Vijay Mallya to the show cause notice, facts brought by the enforcement directorate, and non-bailable warrant under the PMLA Act, 2002, issued by special judge, Mumbai, the MEA revoked the passport under section 10 (3) (c) and 10 (3)(h) of the Passports Act, 1967,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Section 10 (3) (c) states that a person’s passport can be revoked in the interests of India’s sovereignty, integrity and security, and to maintain friendly relations with a foreign country.
The embattled businessman left India for Britain on March 2 after a consortium of 17 banks accused him of defaulting on more than Rs 9,000 crore, mostly loans taken for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya, who is facing a multi-agency probe, apparently told the government he is cooperating with the investigators. But his assurance contradicted the ED’s allegation that he had skipped three summonses issued by the agency.
He was supposed to be present before ED officials in Mumbai on April 15 for an alleged IDBI Bank loan fraud, especially the accusation of kickbacks being paid to secure Rs 900 crore for Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya denied that bank loans were misused or diverted to amass assets and called Kingfisher Airlines a genuine “commercial/business failure”.
A source said the non-bailable warrant and revocation of his passport are good grounds to convince British authorities to deport the businessman. But India will still need evidential support and present a strong case in the UK court, the report in the Hindustan Times stated.
Extraditing an Indian economic offender from the UK is extremely difficult, though the two countries have an extradition treaty. It is tough to convince British authorities that a foreigner on their soil can be considered fugitive for a financial crime he committed in his home country, legal experts said.
India has been trying hard since 2015 to bring back another high-profile accused in a separate money-laundering case — former IPL chief Lalit Modi, who is believed to be in Britain too.
(Mallya recently bought the CPL 2016 franchise for the Barbados Tridents team.)