The Vijay Mallya Escape: Who is to be Blamed?
The “King of good times”, Vijay Mallya has been dodging the hands of justice for almost three years now- a statement he, however, refutes. Mallya, who owes an amount of about 9000 crores to 17 Indian banks, is being investigated under charges like financial fraud and money laundering. Mallya’s case, that regularly goes in and out of fame, recently credited another set of controversies to its name.
Mallya fled from the country in 2016 and hasn’t returned since. With a scam of this scale, the political parties haven’t missed a single chance to launch at each other with blames. But, the question still remains- How did Vijay Mallya manage to leave the country with zero help from anybody? And if he did receive aid, who from?
A 9000 crore worth of history
Founder of Kingfisher Airlines– that was once the second largest in the country, Vijay Mallya has been under investigation for the staggering money owed by his airlines to multiple banks across India. Under his chairmanship, several loans were taken from major banks. For instance, Kingfisher owes Rs 1600 crores to the State Bank of India (SBI).
Interestingly, the day Vijay Mallya left the country for United Kingdom (2nd March 2016), the consortium of banks he owes money to, moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal against him. Consequently, 6 days later, the banks moved to the Supreme Court, officially requesting to restrain Mallya from leaving the country. At the same time, they requested an arrest warrant against the Kingfisher chairman. It was in April 2016, that his passport was revoked by the Ministry of External Affairs. However, Mallya had been out of the country for about a month by then, having expressed his “desire” to move closer to his foreign-settled family.
Vijay Mallya, who has twice been elected as an independent Member of Parliament for the upper house (Rajya Sabha), has been summoned for a judicial presence more than once, but to no avail. He also resigned from his MP post, only a day before a parliamentary committee was to sit down and recommend his expulsion, in 2016.
What is the present situation?
Vijay Mallya currently resides in the United Kingdom, where he appeared before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 12, 2018. He was there to challenge the extradition request by India, on the basis of money laundering and fraud charges. According to Mallya, he left the country, not with criminal intent, but because he had a meeting in Geneva. “My conscience is clear and (I) put almost Rs 15000 crore worth of assets on the table of the Karnataka High Court”, said Mallya while addressing reporters outside the UK court.
However, as per the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Kingfisher chairman had criminal intent not to repay the loans. Further, the agency says it has ample evidence to prove that Mallya diversified the loans into areas different than what he initially got them sanctioned for. The 62-year old, however, denies all the charges, saying he has become a “political football”. Presently, the UK judicial system is investigating his case, and he is to remain within the national boundaries. To this, Vijay Mallya has no objection, stating that almost all of his family now lives in the UK and United States.
In July 2018, the case against Mallya once again gained popularity, when he expressed his intent to repay the owed amount to the banks. According to most people, this comes as a result of the country’s Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018. This newly introduced bill in India allows a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court to confiscate properties of a person, who has been declared a fugitive economic offender. Hence, this sudden “change of heart” by Mallya might be nothing more than an attempt to prevent his properties across the country being confiscated.
The escape plan and blame gaming
While making his recent appearance in the Westminster Court of UK, the man of controversies raised yet another one when he fleetingly made a mention of the current Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. On being questioned by the reporters if he had left the country after being “tipped off”, Mallya gave a brief reply. “I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks”, said Vijay Mallya, while referring to March 2016, the last time he was in India. The statement, however, created a wave of loud discussions amidst the general public, media-persons and politicians alike. The opposition, especially Congress, has come forward, almost declaring the BJP government an accomplice in the escape plan.
Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, has demanded that in the light of these latest grave discoveries, the Prime Minister should open a direct inquiry into the matter. He has further asked the Finance Minister to step down. The timing of Vijay Mallya’s escape from the country makes the current government an obvious target for the current accusations it faces. In 2016, when Mallya left, the BJP government was in power, with Arun Jaitley as the finance minister.
More controversies also arise because of the alterations in CBI’s Look Out Circular (LOC) for Vijay Mallya. In the first LOC, that was dated October 16, 2015, it mentioned: “prevent a subject from leaving India”. However, another LOC was released on November 24, 2015, interestingly on the same day when Mallya had flown back to India. In this letter, however, the words now said: “inform originator of arrival/departure of the subject”. Roughly four months later, Vijay Mallya left the country for good, and the efforts to bring him back are still underway. The question now being fired is, why was the LOC changed, essentially letting the person of interest leave the country? The current government is being criticised since the incident happened under its tenure, and many suspect it could not have taken place without aid from the authority.
In return, BJP has also started firing shots at Congress, saying that all of these loans were sanctioned to Mallya in the tenure of Congress government, with many of the banks in question being public sector banks. Hence, the former government is to be blamed, especially when the security presented by Kingfisher was considerably insufficient as compared to the loan amount.
While the opposition blames the government, and the government blames Congress, Mallya points his fingers at both. He says he is being made the scapegoat, despite the other, considerably larger non-performing assets (NPAs) of the banks. According to him, both the major parties do not like him, and hence, he is being framed, despite the lack of wrongful intent.
While it is common practice to heat up the blame game when more than just one side is to be blamed, justice remains the foremost priority. The Central Bureau of Investigation is still making efforts to bring Mallya back to the country, back to justice. The question is, will it be successful in doing so?