New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Tightening its noose on beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya, facing probe on charges of misappropriating a Rs.9,000 crore bank loan, the government on Friday suspended his diplomatic passport for four weeks.
The government gave Mallya a week’s time to respond to the notice failing which his travel document could be impounded.
Mallya, who is in Britain, could face problems for his overseas stay in view of the suspension of the passport, sources said.
“On the advise of the Enforcement Directorate, the passport issuing authority in the Ministry of External Affairs has today suspended the validity of Mr. Vijay Mallya’s diplomatic passport with immediate effect,” the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said in a statement.
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 statement said.
On April 13, the Enforcement Directorate sought revocation of Mallya’s diplomatic passport after he failed to appear before the probe agency. He is being probed by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Supreme Court on April 7 directed the liquor baron to disclose all his assets — movable and immovable, and tangible and intangible — and other shareholding and beneficial interests in India and abroad by April 21.
An apex court bench comprising Justice Kurien Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman asked Mallya to disclose all the assets held by his wife and children and indicate the date when he can appear before it in person.
Industry watchers say trouble for the sitting, independent Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, known for his lavish lifestyle, had begun shortly after he launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005 as the aviation industry slowly started dwindling.
Mallya first took loans from IDBI bank in 2006 and again in 2009 got loans from a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI) for airline. By 2007, he also had spent a huge amount to take over low-cost carrier Air Deccan.
But by 2010, the business tycoon had run into rough weather and tentatively had a debt of over Rs.7,000 crore — which only increased with the passage of time.
In March 2016, the banks moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal over the loans. On March 2, Mallya left India for Britain.
However, on March 11, Mallya broke his silence from his overseas location.
“I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish,” he tweeted then.