The Bombay High Court on Friday questioned fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya’s advocate about the industrialist’s plans to return to face proceedings against them. The court was hearing Mallya’s petition against a special court’s order to declare the businessman a fugitive.
Mallya is fighting a number of lawsuits in UK and India related to fraud and money laundering allegations. He fled India and moved to London in March 2016, but a court there ordered his extradition to India in December 2018. The UK signed an order to extradite him on February 4. Mallya is currently on bail on an extradition warrant.
On January 5, a special court in Mumbai declared Mallya a fugitive economic offender. He was the first person to get the tag after Parliament passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act last year to allow the seizure of domestic assets of such individuals.
Amit Desai, Mallya’s lawyer, said the verdict categorising Mallya as a fugitive businessman and allowing his assets to be confiscated would hinder him from repaying his lenders. Desai said his client had offered to repay the debts taken from several banks.
The division bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Sarang Kotwal said the tag would be revoked once Mallya returned. “The property too will be released...So, when is that happening?” Desai said.
Desai, however, described the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act as “draconian”. “This allows the Centre to confiscate everything, irrespective of whether a property has been bought from the proceeds of crime or not,” the lawyer said.
Mallya’s lawyer said a United Kingdom’s court order prevented Mallya from leaving the UK. To which the High Court asked Desai if he had requested the UK court for permission to travel to India to face legal proceedings.
The High Court bench asked the Enforcement Directorate, the agency investigating Mallya, to file a reply to the petition against the tag by March 8. The next special court hearing of the Enforcement Directorate’s application is scheduled for March 13.