Special court summons Vijay Mallya under Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance
A special PMLA court in Mumbai has summoned beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya to appear before it on August 27 on Enforcement Directorate's plea seeking action against him under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance in the over Rs. 9,000cr bank fraud case. This is the first time that action was initiated under the Modi government's recently-promulgated ordinance to deal with fugitive bank loan defaulters.
Special judge MS Azmi, dealing with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, issued the notice to Mallya after taking cognizance of the second ED charge-sheet filed against Mallya recently and a subsequent application by it on June 22 seeking a fugitive economic offender tag. The court earlier issued non-bailable warrants against the beleaguered businessman in the two cases filed by the ED.
Enforcement Directorate has also sought immediate confiscation of assets worth around Rs. 12,500 crore of Mallya and other fugitive economic offenders. If Mallya does not appear before the court, he risks being declared a fugitive economic offender, besides properties linked to him being confiscated.
Mallya, his now-defunct venture Kingfisher Airlines, and others availed loans from various banks during the tenure of the UPA-I government and the outstanding amount, including interest, against him is Rs. 9,990.07 crore at present, the officials said. He said he had written letters to both PM Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Jaitley on April 15, 2016, to explain his side of the story.
"No response was received (from PM and FM). I have been accused by politicians and the media alike of having stolen and run away with Rs. 9,000 crore...loaned to Kingfisher Airlines. Some of the lending banks have also labeled me a wilful defaulter," Mallya stated.
ED furnished evidence in its charge-sheets, filed under 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 ED and CBI 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 offense and who has left India... to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution," the government said. The cases of frauds, cheque dishonor or loan default of over Rs. 100 crore come under its ambit.