Absconding chairman of the defunct Kingfisher Airlines, Vijay Mallya, earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first person to be declared a “fugitive economic offender” by a special Mumbai court under the provisions of a tough new law enacted last year. The plea was moved by the Enforcement Directorate that has already attached his assets worth £900 million, roughly the amount he owes a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India. Mallya is currently in the UK, battling extradition proceedings, after a Westminster court ruled in favour of his return to India.
The branding of the controversial liquor baron as a fugitive, under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, would help the anti-money laundering agency confiscate and sell his assets both in India and abroad in case the businessman continues to evade returning to India and joining the investigation here. The court rejected Mallya’s contention that the Act could not be applied retrospectively. He has already lost a case in London where a court has ordered his extradition to India.
The Act was framed by the Modi government in the wake of pressure to act against fugitives such as Mallya, former IPL czar Lalit Modi and, more recently Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
ED identifies Mallya’s assets
The ED identified Mallya’s assets worth over £1.25 billion, including £900 million attached earlier, which can be disposed of to settle his outstanding with the Indian banks where he defaulted on repayments. Mallya’s case is a boost for investigative agencies which have an accumulated a list of more than 30 economic fugitives who have fled after defaulting on huge loans from public sector banks.
A similar petition is pending in a Mumbai special court against Nirav Modi and Choksi, the two main accused in the £1.36 billion Punjab National Bank letters of undertaking scam. The ED has prepared a list of at least 12 such economic offenders, including Mallya, Nirav Modi, Choksi, Lalit Modi, Jatin Mehta, Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara.