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A special court in Mumbai has allowed the Enforcement Directorate to invoke the India-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to bring back embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya to the country to face money laundering probe.
The special court, which is entrusted with hearing cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, had last week approved the Enforcement Directorate's request to issue an order against Mallya under the India-UK treaty.
ED officials said the court approved their request on the basis of the agency's investigation and attachment of assets in the criminal case where Mallya and his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) are alleged to have defrauded IDBI Bank to the tune of about Rs 900 crore.
The ED, they said, has now sent the court-issued request to the Union Home Ministry for further execution of the order in cooperation with its counterparts in the United Kingdom.
The order has come as a fresh blow to the beleaguered businessman as India, through the Ministry of External Affairs, has recently handed over to the UK an extradition request against Mallya, based on a CBI case in the same offence.
The CBI too is probing this alleged loan default case under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Besides the request under MLAT, the ED has also appended the Non-Bailable Warrant (NBW) issued by the special court last year, in the official dossier sent to the Home Ministry.
The 1992 India-UK MLAT has a clause where the treaty can be invoked in a criminal probe seeking the "transfer of persons, including persons in custody, for the purpose of assisting in investigations or giving evidence" and it is understood that the ED considers this step a better legal tool than the regular extradition action to get a person under investigation by Indian probe agencies back to the country.
The ED has been wanting Mallya to join the probe in this case "in person" and had issued multiple summons to him but could not get success as Mallya, who is in the UK, never deposed before it.
The ED has virtually exhausted all legal options to bring him back to India including the issuance of NBW against him based on which it had made the requests for revocation of his passport and subsequent deportation bid, apart from seeking an Interpol warrant against him which has remained unsuccessful till now.
The central probe agency is also working to soon file its first charge sheet in the case even as it has attached assets worth Rs 9,661 crore in this probe case.
The ED had registered a criminal case in this deal last year under the provisions of the PMLA, based on a CBI FIR.