As many as five lakh transactions carried out by Kingfisher Airlines since 2004 are under the scanner of CBI as it probes suspected fraud on part of the airline owner Vijay Mallya who has been unable to return over Rs 7,000 crore loan to various banks.
CBI sources said 60 per cent of these transactions were such where money was either sent abroad or brought in. These are under the scanner of the agency for possible money laundering.
“We are focusing on four countries, a few of which are tax havens, where much of this money was sent or brought in from. Some of these transactions may be bonafide as claimed by Mallya during questioning. But we have reasonable suspicion that money loaned to Kingfisher Airlines by various banks has been siphoned off to foreign countries for purposes not related to the operation of the airline,” a CBI officer said.
Sources said the agency has embarked on a mammoth task as each transaction needs to examined and verified threadbare. Given that 60 per cent of these transactions are with entities stationed abroad, the task becomes all the more difficult.
A CBI source said the agency would send letters rogatory to various countries where these transactions have taken place to get more information. However, this would happen only after the agency has fully examined the transactions, the source said.
Sources said the agency was still waiting for banks to come forward to lodge a complaint of fraud. “Though various banks are cooperating in the investigation, none are as yet ready to come forward to lodge a complaint. Without a formal complaint it will be very difficult for us to prosecute Mallya because prima facie it is a case of cheating where the one cheated has to come forward to make that allegation,” said a CBI officer.
The agency is investigating the case of Rs 900 crore loan given to Kingfisher Airlines by IDBI Bank that the company has defaulted on. The case registered by the agency after taking suo motu cognisance of a “fraud” on part of Mallya who has been declared a willful defaulter by some banks.
“There is along procedure before a case of loan default comes to CBI. First the loan is declared irregular past 60 days of non-payment and then NPA when it increases to 90 days. The banks then ascertain through staff accountability exercise and internal vigilance whether it is a case of fraud or willful default or both. It is only then — and this can take years — that banks come to CBI. Here, we have taken cognisance of the fraud on our own,” the CBI officer said.