In a startling development, a few sources from the Central Bureau of Investigation have revealed that the security agency lowered the lookout notice on loans defaulter Vijay Mallya from 'detain' to merely 'inform', Press Trust of India reported.
The CBI, which is facing heat over allowing Mallya to leave the country, reportedly hanged the nature of the notice in November 2015 - a month after its original issuance. From seeking his detention while leaving the country, the agency changed the notice to asking the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) to inform it about his departure and travel plans, the agency sources said.
The sources explained that a lookout circular is decided upon by the issuing authority and unless that authority specifically asks the BoI to detain a person, or to stop him from boarding a plane, no action is taken. The sources also revealed that the BoI did not make any attempt to stop Mallya from travelling abroad. They said that every time Mallya travelled, the agency was duly informed about it.
Mallya is facing a CBI probe for defaulting on repayment of a loans of Rs 900 crores taken from IDBI. In total, the former liquor baron owes several banks a total of as much as Rs 9,000 crores.
The CBI sources further told that PTI that Mallya travelled abroad in October and returned in November. He also made two trips in the first and last week of December and another one in January.
When PTI asked the sources why the CBI did not impound his passport to stop his movement abroad, they said Mallya had been cooperating with the investigation by presenting himself for questioning when required and also providing documents sought by the agency.
The CBI sources said that according to a Supreme Court judgement, the passport of a person can only be impounded when he has been chargesheeted or if a trial is pending against him.
As Mallya had been cooperating, the sources explained, there was no reason to stop him from moving abroad. In addition, he had appeared for questioning three times since the lookout notices were issued, once here and twice in Mumbai, between December 9 and 12 last year, the sources said.
The agency, its sources added, was keeping track of Mallya's movements but did not interfere as he always returned.
The CBI had registered a case against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines, Chief Financial Officer of the airlines A Raghunathan and unknown officials of IDBI Bank in its FIR alleging that Rs 900 crores that IDBI sanctioned as a loan to Mallya was in violation of norms to do with credit limits.
Clarifying his position regarding the loan owed by KFA, Mallya said in a recent statement after the closure of the airline, that since April, 2013, the banks and their assignees have recovered, in cash, an aggregate of Rs 1,244 crores from the sale of pledged shares. "In addition an aggregate of Rs 600 crore is lying deposited in the Karnataka high court (since July, 2013) and a further sum of Rs 650 crore belonging to United Breweries Holdings has been deposited in the Karnataka high court since early 2014, being sums realised from the sale proceeds received by United Breweries Holdings from the sale of shares in United Spirits to Diageo Plc in July, 2013," he said.
"Thus, the aggregate cash recovery/security available is Rs 2,494 crore," Mallya said.
The attorney general informed the Supreme Court yesterday that he has been told by the CBI that Mallya left the country on 2 March.
The bench issued a notice to Mallya and sought his response within two weeks on pleas filed by a consortium of banks seeking direction for freezing his passport and his presence before the apex court.