New Delhi, April 18 : Known for his flamboyant lifestyle, liquor baron Vijay Mallya has been one of the most wanted fugitives in India — accused of defrauding at least 17 banks of over Rs 9,000 crore and siphoning off the money to his children.
The saga, which has been going on for years now, started in November 2015 when the State Bank of India (SBI) tagged Mallya a “wilful defaulter”, for defaulting on payments and its diversion for purposes other than sanctioned.
This has become the cause of a protracted legal battle between the billionaire and Indian law enforcement agencies, with a consortium of 17 banks led by SBI striving to recover the money loaned to him.
Mallya left the country on March 2, 2016, and has been living in London from where he was arrested on Tuesday only to be bailed out a few hours later.
His fleeing India had come just before the SBI-led banks’ consortium petitioned the Supreme Court to recover their outstanding loans amounting to Rs 9,431.65 crore, including interest, which was sanctioned to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
In April last year, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), at the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), had suspended his passport while Mallya was in London.
Mallya has since expressed his wish to come back to India saying he couldn’t do so on account of his passport-suspension. At one time, the ministry even asked Mallya to visit the nearest Indian mission where he could get an “emergency certificate” issued, if he wished to return.
Twice a member of the Rajya Sabha, Mallya resigned from Parliament in May last year, a month ahead of his retirement on June 30.
He was declared a “proclaimed offender” in June as per the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on the request of the ED.
Assets worth Rs 8,040 crore have so far been attached by the ED in its pursuit of the case, which include the Kingfisher brand, logo, and also Mallya’s plush North Goa ‘Kingfisher Villa’.
The last, which was priced at about 90 crore, finally went under the hammer for Rs 73 crore this month.
In March this year, responding to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar, without naming Mallya, told the House that loan of Rs 8,040 crore to the industrialist was declared a non-performing asset (NPA) in 2009 and was restructured in 2010.
Mallya has more than once extended a proposal to settle the loans which he is due to pay.
“Public sector banks have policies for one-time settlements. Hundreds of borrowers have settled. Why should this be denied to us? Our substantial offer before the Supreme Court was rejected by banks without consideration,” Mallya had said in a tweet in March this year.
The banks had last year refused to accept his offer of settling the loans at Rs 6,868 crore.
The Indian government is in talks with the UK for Mallya’s extradition. The British had last year expressed its inability to deport Mallya on account his arriving on a valid visa.