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This Case is Going to Drive us Crazy – CBI – The CBI’s stance is crucial in this case. Lack of evidence is the primary reason why the CBI is largely silent.
Liquor baron Vijay Mallya has appeared on the electoral rolls in the UK with his country home in Britain as his recorded address, a media report said on Sunday.
The 60-year-old, who strongly rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing and denies he has deliberately absconded from India, has been living at a three-storey mansion called Ladywalk in the village of Tewin in Hertfordshire, just over a one-hour drive north of London.
According to The Sunday Times, Mallya confirmed that “my official address in the UK is at Ladywalk,” adding that he had supplied this information to the Indian authorities.
The £11.5-million mansion was bought from the father of British Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton by a company with offshore links. “The ownership structure of Ladywalk is perfectly legal,” the newspaper quoted Mallya as saying.
Mallya, however, told the newspaper there was no “concealment or tax avoidance involved” and said he has been a “British resident” since 1992.
Mallya has described an arrest warrant against him as “erroneous and unjustified” and has recently tweeted: “I fully respect and will comply with the law of the land.”
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been asked to send formal requests through courts and diplomatic channels to UK (including Ireland), France, Mauritius, USA and Hong Kong, highly placed sources in CBI and government said. Though the CBI was assigned the task of requesting through legal process to freeze accounts of Mallya, they developed cold feet as evidence collected thus far indicate not criminality in this case, the sources said.
According to sources in CBI quoted above, the government’s knee-jerk reactions in the Mallya episode seemed like pursuing a wild-goose chase that may end up investigators in a legal cul de sac. Officials involved with the case admit that the revocation of passport and subsequent letter rogatory would only raise the level of the din without any tangible result.
Perhaps the ground for this wild-goose chase was laid on 1 March when director of the CBI, Anil Sinha, launched an attack on PSU banks in a conference in Mumbai for letting Mallya off the hook in spite of his defaults on loans, top bankers and CBI officials were rather bemused.
“Now, this case is going to drive us crazy” quipped an officer who was closely associated with the investigation. Since 29 July 2015 when the CBI registered a suo motu case against Mallya on “suspected fraud”, a group of top accountants assisted the CBI to go through nearly 8 lakh accounting entries to separate truth from gossips.
These officers were quite sure that the CBI chief’s indiscretion would cost them dearly. Lo and behold, Mallya who happened to be in the country decided to take the flight out of the country within 12 hours of Sinha’s comments and rest is history. In one year investigation, the CBI has so far failed to discover even a single entry that sustains the charge of fund diversion. A statement of account prepared by the agency on the other hand reveals that Mallya had funneled Rs 3251 crore from 62 different companies through his own efforts.
The fact that CBI hasn’t so far found any strong evidences of fund diversion by Vijay Mallya, required to frame charges against the liquor-baron in the court of law, is in stark contraction to the findings of the findings of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is also investigating the case.
“So far, CBI hasn’t found any single evidence of fund diversion,” sources said, adding the agency is examining some eight lakh financial transactions involving Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher, United Breweries and other related parties dating back to 2004. Due to the enormous size of the task, the agency has requested government more time to scrutinize the whole chain of transactions.
The CBI’s stance is crucial in this case. Lack of evidence is the primary reason why the CBI is largely silent on the Vijay Mallya case, even when the ED has initiated tough measures against Mallya including prompting the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to suspend Mallya’s passport, seeking his deportation from UK, where the industrialist is currently believed to be after he left the country on 2 March stirring up a hornet’s nest among banks and investigators.
According to the CBI sources ED is working more on assumptions rather than solid evidences in the Kingfisher case. This will weaken a foolproof case against Mallya when it reaches the court, the official said. Also, the ED might be under pressure by the government and due to the media attention to make swift progress in this case.
The CBI also observes that the Mallya, once known as the King of Good Times and the poster boy of India’s private civil aviation sector, has so far complied to the legal proceedings in Indian courts representing himself through lawyers and explaining his position. This makes difficult for the government to corner him alleging non-cooperation to the law of the land. In short the CBI doesn’t feel it has a strong case, at least so far, against Mallya in the Kingfisher loan default case.