Mallya’s Diplomatic Passport Suspended for 4 Weeks
Move makes his stay in the UK illegal; if court sends out a non-bailable warrant, the govt can ask Interpol to issue a red-corner notice
New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) suspended businessman and lawmaker Vijay Mallya’s diplomatic passport for four weeks on the advice of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is seeking to question him over allegations of money laundering. The action is in contrast with the Lalit Modi case in which the Regional Passport Office (RPO) revoked his passport only for it to be restored later.
Mallya hasn’t appeared before the ED despite being summoned three times and has sought time until May to present himself. The government has sought Mallya’s response within a week as to why his passport should not be revoked.
“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,” the ministry said in a release. ED has also sought a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Mallya from a Mumbai court, which if granted will force him to move the judiciary to avoid being jailed on his return to India. ET was the first to report on Friday that that ED had sought legal opinion before moving the court on the matter. According to a government official, Mallya is deliberately avoiding a personal appearance despite a statutory requirement to do so.
Officials said the failure to appear before the investigating authority under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act is tantamount to willful non-compliance with the legal process.
The suspension of his passport makes Mallya’s stay in the UK illegal, officials said. If the court issues a non-bailable warrant, the government can then ask Interpol to issue a red-corner notice, paving the way for his deportation to In-
dia, added an official. Mallya has denied any wrongdoing.
Mallya, who holds a diplomatic passport on account of his status as Member of Parliament, was supposed to present himself before the ED's investigators in Mumbai last Saturday. He left the country on March 2 for the UK.
A 17-lender group is pursuing Mallya for .₹ 9,000 crore in dues stemming from loans made to Kingfisher Airlines, the carrier that he founded. The banks have asked the Supreme Court to ensure his presence in India to negotiate the terms of a settlement. Mallya is also under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation over a .₹ 950 crore loan to Kingfisher Airlines, which has been grounded since 2012.
Mallya's case takes centre stage at a time when India's government and central bank have begun to crack down on bank loan defaulters, in a drive to clean up ailing state-run banks.
Just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said no one "loo- ting" money from banks would be spared, India's foreign ministry gave Mallya a week to answer why his passport should not be impounded or revoked.
The suspension is effective for four weeks. It was not immediately clear what the suspension means for Mallya, whose lawyer, CS Vaidyanathan, said he was not aware of the government notice. Mallya, a member of the upper house of India's parliament who co-owns Britain-based motor racing team Force India, has not revealed his whereabouts since his departure on March 2, but has said he was not an absconder.
The creditor banks this month rejected an offer of partial repayment by Mallya, who had given a personal guarantee for the Kingfisher loan, and have demanded that the former billionaire attend a hearing in India's Supreme Court.