The Ministry of External Affairs Friday suspended the diplomatic passport of Vijay Mallya, chairman of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, in connection with a money laundering probe in the over Rs 900-crore IDBI loan fraud case.
“Passport of Vijay Mallya suspended by the government of India on request of enforcement directorate,” a tweet by ED’s official Twitter handle said.
MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirmed: “On the advice of the ED, the Passport Issuing Authority in the MEA has today suspended the validity of Vijay Mallya’s diplomatic passport with immediate effect for a period of 4 weeks, under Section 10 A of the Passports Act, 1967. Mallya has been asked to respond within one week as to why his passport should not be impounded or revoked under section 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act, 1967. If he fails to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that he has no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation.”
The ED had on April 13 sought revocation of Mallya’s diplomatic passport by the Regional Passport Office. This, after Mallya failed to appear before the probe agency on April 9, despite being summoned three times by the ED under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED had issued fresh summons to Mallya after he sought two extensions from the earlier dates of March 18 and April 2, citing official reasons. The ED said Mallya has delayed the money laundering investigation by not cooperating with the agency.
The ED has also approached the special PMLA court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable warrant against Mallya in connection with the IDBI loan fraud case. The court is likely to hear the matter on the ED’s plea Saturday.
ED sources Friday said the suspension of Mallya’s passport by the ministry has now made his stay in the UK illegal. “If Mallya fails to reply within the stipulated time, his passport will be unilaterally revoked and will lead to Mallya’s deportation to India,” said ED sources.
The investigative agencies probing Mallya and his firm have claimed that Mallya left the country for the UK on March 2 using a diplomatic passport. The diplomatic passport was issued to him as he is a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha.
Under the Passport Act, when a person is issued a diplomatic passport, their regular international travel document gets deposited. If the passport office revokes the diplomatic passport, the international travel document too gets cancelled.
Kingfisher Airlines has defaulted on bank loans of over Rs 7,000 crore. Kingfisher owes over Rs 9,000 crore to 17 banks in the country.
Mallya and his firm have come under the scanner of multiple investigating agencies in the country such as the CBI, SFIO and the service tax department for alleged violations of norms.
The Supreme Court is also hearing a case filed by banks against Mallya over settlement of loans. It has directed Mallya to disclose his assets in court.
The top court issued the directive after the SBI-led consortium of public sector banks rejected his Rs 4,000-crore loan repayment proposal.
Banks informed the court that Mallya’s offer to pay Rs 2,000 crore up front and another Rs 2,000 crore by September is not acceptable to them. Banks said Mallya has been informed about the rejection of the offer and a revised proposal was mooted by his representatives two days ago, but it was also not satisfactory and the chances of getting the money looked distant.
SBI and Punjab National Bank have already declared Kingfisher as a wilful defaulter. The SC bench had last month questioned the public sector banks over advancing loans to Mallya and his companies without securing enough assets as collateral.
Mallya, according to media reports, has now come up with a revised loan repayment offer of Rs 6,000 crore.