Banks move SC to block Mallya from going abroad
08 March 2016
A day after Vijay Mallya suffered a double blow with a case of money laundering filed against him as well as a freeze on his Rs515-crore severance package from United Spirits, a consortium of 17 banks today moved the Supreme Court seeking to prevent him from leaving the country.
The petition filed by the State Bank of India and 16 other banks has requested the top court to ensure Mallya does not flee the country following the Enforcement Directorate lodging a money laundering case against the beleaguered liquor baron. The lenders fear that Mallya might shift base to a country where it would be difficult to make him face Indian laws.
The Supreme Court will hear the matter on Wednesday.
Mallya's now defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes the consortium Rs10,000 crore, including compound interest over the remaining combined loans of Rs7,800 crore taken between 2004-12 before the airline was grounded and eventually shut down.
On Monday, moments before the ED in Mumbai lodged the money laundering case, the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in Bengaluru barred British liquor giant Diageo from paying Mallya anything till a case against him was disposed of.
The tribunal barred Diageo from paying Rs515 crore as severance package to Mallya, who quit the chairmanship of its Indian company, United Spirits Ltd, last month, till the pending case against the liquor baron before it is decided.
"Diageo plc and United Spirits Ltd shall not disburse the amount ($75 million) to Mallya or his nominees or agents till the disposal of the bank's original application. Amount as sought by the applicant banks stands attached," the order said.
The tribunal also directed all defendants to furnish details of the agreement on or before the next date of hearing (28 March), when it will hear the bank's three other interlocutory applications, seeking his arrest, impounding of his passport and seizure of his assets. It also ordered issuing notice on the bank's application to Diageo office in London through registered post.
In another major blow for Mallya, the ED on Monday registered a money-laundering case against him. Mallya and the top executives of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines have been booked under Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The measure follows an audit of the Rs7,200 crore loan that the bank consortium had extended to the airline but was not repaid. Kingfisher is alleged to have diverted as much as Rs4,000 crore of that money to international tax havens like Mauritius and Cayman Islands, which is being probed by the ED and the CBI.
The flamboyant businessman, who recently announced his plans to spend more time with his family in Britain, has refuted all charges against him and taken exception to being labelled as a "wilful defaulter" by some of the lender banks.
Mallya has also denied he was planning to flee the country and said he was ready to cooperate with the lenders and the agencies to settle the debt.
Mallya was recently in the news when some former airline employees wrote an open letter blaming him for the grounding of the airline and damaging the country's reputation in the aviation industry.
Launched as the most glamorous and luxurious private airline in the country, KFA fell into bad days and was grounded in October 2012 after a huge financial mess, including default of bank loans, dues to oil companies, airports and even staff salaries.