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

The Economic Times - - Companies - Our Bureau & Agen­cies

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-

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MINISTRYOFEXTERNALAFFAIRS

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.

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