ED seeks ‘fugitive economic offender’ tag for Mallya
Two months after the Centre promulgated the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, the Enforcement Directorate on Friday moved a special court in Mumbai seeking to declare Vijay Mallya, chairman of defunct Kingfisher Airlines, a fugitive economic offender which will give the agency powers to confiscate his assets worth about Rs 12,500 crore, including those in foreign countries.
Mallya, who has defaulted on loans of over Rs 9,000 crore he took from PSBs by providing hypothetical assets as collateral, will be the first Indian businessman to be declared fugitive economic offender under the new law if the special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court accepts ED’s application.
“Fugitive economic offender means any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India, who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution; or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution,” the ordinance states.
Under the rule, properties confiscated by the agency can be disposed of and money deposited in government accounts even while the trial is under way – a provision which makes it far more stringent than PMLA which provides for attachment of the property of the accused who stays the owner of the assets.
In Mallya’s case, the ED has attached assets worth over Rs 8,000 crore (market value) and filed two chargesheets besides obtaining non-bailable arrest warrants against him. An extradition request against him is currently pending in UK courts.
Besides Mallya, diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and a few other fugitives, including ex-deputy collector of Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority, Nitish Thakur, and promoters of Speak Asia are likely to face similar action.
The confiscated properties will be owned by the Centre, which will appoint an administrator to dispose of the assets.
No case related to these confiscations will be entertained by any court or tribunal anywhere, as per the ordinance, once the PMLA court declares an accused a fugitive economic offender and orders confiscation of his assets equivalent to the proceeds of crime.