Two days after beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya told a Delhi court that he felt “incapacitated” to travel to India despite his “best intentions” as his passport has been revoked, the ED has started working on issuing a third attachment order worth a few thousand crore of rupees more against him. The ED has already attached assets worth Rs 8,041 crore as part of its criminal probe against Mallya and this time the targeted assets would include those on foreign shores.
Officials said while the Enforcement Directorate has till now been effecting seizure of assets under the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the next edition of attachments will be carried out under sections of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The agency had got a proclamation issued by a Mumbai court under CrPC against Mallya after he skipped multiple summonses to depose in its money laundering probe in the alleged bank loan frauds worth over Rs 9,000 crore.
With Mallya not joining ED’s PMLA probe till now, the agency, they said, will the third set of attachment orders for assets held “directly and indirectly” by him, including those at overseas locations like South Africa, the UK and others. It is understood that the agency has already got a dossier prepared in this regard of his shares in companies and other business commitments, and an order for attachment of assets under CrPC would be issued in some time. While sources did not mention the estimated value of the assets that would be attached under the fresh order, it is expected to be worth a few thousand crores of rupees.
The agency, meanwhile, has also moved to add fresh charges against him in its existing request to Interpol for issuance of a global arrest warrant and that in the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between India and the UK which it wants to invoke in order to force Mallya to join the probe. The ED had on September 3 issued its second attachment order for assets worth Rs 6,630 crore and seized his farmhouse, flats and Fixed Deposits in connection with its money laundering case against him and his associates.
The agency had also recently taken over investigation into the alleged loan default of Rs 6,027 crore availed from a consortium of nationalised banks led by SBI, in which a fresh case was also filed by CBI last month.
The total attachment made by the agency in this case has now shot up to Rs 8,041 crore as it had attached assets worth Rs 1,411 crore a few months back. This is one of the largest attachment of assets made by ED in a PMLA case till now. An attachment of assets order under PMLA is aimed at depriving an accused the benefits from their ill-gotten wealth and also works to make absconding offenders join probe as their resources are choked.
Such an order can be appealed before the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act within a period of 180 days. The agency has been wanting Mallya to join the investigation in these cases “in person” and has virtually exhausted all legal remedies like seeking an Interpol arrest warrant and getting his passport revoked. Mallya had recently told a Delhi court that he wants to return to India but he is “incapacitated” to travel despite his “best intentions” as his passport has been revoked by the Indian authorities.
However, sources in the ED said Mallya or any other person whose passport has been revoked pending criminal investigations can approach the Indian High Commission or Embassy in the country they are in and get an “emergency or alternative travel document” issued in order to travel back.
“The provision is stipulated under Section 4 (2)(a) of the Passport Act which talks about issuance of an emergency certificate authorising a person to enter India. Mallya can well use this legal provision to come back to India and join the probe. He is wanted in a criminal probe of money laundering
by the ED apart from one under the now repealed Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA),” they said.
Mallya, who is currently in London, through his counsel told the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass in a case lodged against him for allegedly evading summons in a FERA violation matter, that he was “making all efforts to have the revocation of passport set aside.” “I request you (counsel) to kindly convey to the judge that I have the utmost respect for his authority and towards the judicial system of the country, in general. “However, in the given circumstances, despite my best intentions to obey the order of the judge, I find myself incapacitated to travel to India, at this moment; even though I am making all the efforts to have the said revocation of my passport set aside,” Mallya’s email to his counsel said.