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Vijay Mallya, who quietly flew out of India on 2 March, may soon feel the pinch as the investigating agencies tighten the noose around his empire.
He fled as the consortium of 17 banks that his grounded Kingfisher Airlines owes Rs 9,500 crore to approached the Supreme Court seeking his detention. He was declared a willful defaulter by State Bank of India, the leader of the consortium.
Mallya denies he has fled. "I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish," he tweeted.
This entire episode has reminded many of IPL czar Lalit Modi, who too had fled after coming under investigation. The investigating agencies have so far failed to get him extradited. The foreign governments look for a convincing case when it comes to extraditing offenders back to the home country.
Meanwhile, the Opposition has claimed Mallya, the flamboyant millionaire, was allowed to leave by the NDA government. There are claims that the CBI, which first issued a lookout circular against him in October 2015 asking that he be detained if he tries to leave the country, changed the circular's nature a month later and asked the Bureau of Immigration to just inform it about his movement and plans.
The CBI has now reportedly claimed that the first circular was issued by mistake.
A CBI official said the agency has interrogated Mallya thrice in the last five months. "He has been interrogated twice in Mumbai and once in Delhi," the CBI official said. Since he would make himself available and inform the CBI about his travel plans, the official added, they didn't feel the need to detain him. "There is no arrest warrant against him as of now."
Mallya is being probed by the CBI as well as the Enforcement Directorate. While the former has now issued Letters Rogatory against him, the ED has summoned him through email.
The CBI has registered a case against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines as well as executives of the IDBI bank, which had sanctioned a Rs 950 crore loan to the airline in 2015. The agency is probing whether the money was wrongly used and diverted abroad.
After the initial findings, it approached the ED which in turn filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in Mumbai. Sources in the ED said they are interrogating a chartered accountant of Mallya's company and his former Chief Financial Officer.
Some top IDBI executives have also been asked to join the investigations. They include Yogesh Agarwal, the then chairman and managing director of the Bank, as well as BK Batra, OV Bundellu, R Bansal and SKV Srinivasan, all of whom were part of the credit committee which sanctioned the loans, reportedly despite Kingfisher Airlines' low credit ratings.