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In what could lead to more trouble for fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, whose extradition India has been seeking in loan default and money-laundering case, now Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has also begun a probe against the beleaguered liquor baron.
According to a Times of India report, British investigators are probing the alleged use of a complex web of companies by Mallya to launder money through an indirect route – from India to the UK and further to Switzerland and other countries.
The report also mentions that SFO is gathering considerable evidence about Mallya’s movable and immovable assets, his investment and shares in various companies in the UK, and bank account details.
Seeking from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) additional details about Mallya’s assets abroad and alleged money laundering, the British authorities are learnt to have informed India about the independent formal probe being conducted by them.
The development comes at a time when India’s extradition case against Mallya is being heard in the UK’s Westminster Court. The latest probe could further strengthen India’s position in the extradition case if Mallya is found guilty. According to the extradition treaty between the two countries, India needs to establish a dual criminality clause to secure Mallya’s extradition. This will require that the charges are proved a crime according to the British law as well.
“India has already provided ample evidence on how Mallya used his companies/associates to invest in Britain from the money he cheated in India and how Britain’s soil has been used to further launder money to other countries. Now SFO will probe more evidence collected by British investigators,” the Times of India quoted a senior government official as saying.
As part of a case management hearing (CMH) prior to extradition, Mallya’s lawyers are learnt to have submitted defence evidence before the senior district judge at Westminster Court and claimed they want to rely on six experts from the field of aviation, banking, politics and law, including an Indian lawyer. The Crown Prosecution Service, the main public prosecuting agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in Britain and Wales, has already submitted exhaustive evidence shared by India in the UK court. The next hearing in the case has been listed for November 20, while the extradition hearing is expected to take place on December 4.
In a chargesheet filed in May, ED had claimed Mallya laundered around Rs 417 crore of the Rs 900-crore loan taken from IDBI Bank by setting up a complex web of companies and nominating his personal staff, retired company officials or third persons as directors on their boards.
Mallya had in March 2016 fled to Britain after being pursued for the recovery of Rs 8,191 crore owed to a consortium of 17 Indian banks by his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. He was arrested and granted bail in London on April 18 by the Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant.