Gone with the wind
Despite claims of probity, liquor baron Vijay Mallya left India on March 2, the day public sector banks had moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal against him. “I have checked with the CBI. He (Mallya) left the country on March 2, the day when we moved our application for impounding his passport. He has tremendous assets in the UK. So in all likelihood, he should be there,” the Attorney General told the apex court bench. To the uninitiated, Mallya reportedly owes these banks approximately Rs 9,000 crore in loans. What’s worse, the liquor baron was allowed to leave the country without facing any hassles from the government, despite a prior Central Bureau of Investigation look-out notice against him. The notice was reportedly issued at the request of the Central Bureau of Investigation after the agency registered an FIR against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines and others last October. It is also apparent that the banks took their own sweet time to “prevent” Mallya from leaving the country even though they knew of his financial condition a long time ago. It is imperative to ask what our investigative agencies were doing while Mallya was leaving the country. Earlier on Monday, moments before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Mumbai lodged a money laundering case, the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in Bengaluru barred British liquor giant Diageo from paying Mallya a payout of Rs 515 crore till a case against him was disposed of. But then it emerged that more than half of Rs. 515 crore-settlement due to the liquor baron from the British firm Diageo has already been paid. Diageo had bought Mallya’s liquor firm there years ago. When asked about the Debt Recovery Tribunal’s (DRT) March 7 order to it not to pay Mallya any part of the severance package till its next hearing on March 28, the company spokesperson said the company was yet to receive such an order. The government seems to keep close tabs on every activist going abroad, but not on the likes of Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi. On January 11, 2015, Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai was stopped at the Delhi airport by government authorities. The activist was reportedly traveling to London, where she was going to testify before an all-party committee of British MPs on the violations of environmental regulations and tribal rights in Central India by Essar, a corporation based in the United Kingdom. The NDA government said that it had stopped Pillai because it did not want to create a “negative image” of India. Suffice to say, the apex court dumped the Centre’s case and directed authorities to remove Pillai’s name from the “no travel” database. This newspaper is not defending Greenpeace or its activist. But what concerns many is that government institutions have miserably failed to maintain the same standards of vigilance it displayed in Pillai’s case.