By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) moved further in several high-profile cases, both central agencies remained entangled in a legal battle for the extradition of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ founder Vijay Mallya and fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi.
The CBI and the ED made progress in several cases like the ICICI-Videocon loan case involving former bank Chair and Managing Director Chanda Kochhar, and Yes Bank scam case involving its founder Rana Kapoor.
Supplementary charge sheet was filed in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP AgustaWestland chopper case, a fresh charge sheet in corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar’s case and the 2013 railway bribery scam allegedly involving then Railway Minister and senior Congress leader Pawan Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla.
The CBI and ED, which are fighting the legal battle in the United Kingdom for the extradition of Mallya, were sure about his extradition after he lost an appeal in the Supreme Court on May 14.
Mallya, who is wanted in India for Rs 9,000-crore loan defraud, had approached the UK High Court which dismissed his appeal against extradition on April 20.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in an affidavit informed the Supreme Court of India that following the refusal of leave to appeal to Mallya, his extradition to India should, in principle, have been completed within 28 days. However, the UK Home Office intimated that there is further legal issue involved, which needs to be resolved before the extradition takes place.
“The UK side further said that this issue is outside and apart from the extradition process, but it has the effect that under the United Kingdom law, extradition cannot take place until it is resolved,” said the affidavit. The MHA said that the UK has informed it that this separate legal issue is judicial and confidential in nature.
On May 14, in a major setback, Mallya’s application for leave to appeal in the UK Supreme Court was rejected as the High Court declined to entertain his appeal against his extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering in connection with the unrecovered loans to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
The liquor baron has been living in the UK since he fled India on March 2, 2016. Mallya is also the first accused in India to be booked under the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
In 2019, a Mumbai court named Mallya as an offender under the Act, empowering the probe agencies to seize his properties and assets spread across the world.
However, in the case of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, the agencies are more hopeful as a UK court in November 2020 ruled in the favour of the Indian government by allowing the admissibility of evidence against him.
Nirav Modi is wanted in India along with his uncle Mehul Choksi, who headed the Gitanjali group, in connection with Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.
According to investigative agencies’ officials, both sides will make their closing submissions on January 7 and 8 and the judgment for extraditing Nirav Modi is expected in a few weeks thereafter in 2021.
Currently, Nirav Modi is lodged in a London prison after his arrest by UK police in March 2019, while his uncle Choksi has become a citizen of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
Meanwhile, the ED made progress in the ICICI-Videocon loan case as it filed its first charge sheet in the case in first week of November, naming Chanda, her husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot, and VIEL, Videocon Industries Ltd, NPRL and Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL), among others in the case.
The ED also arrested Deepak Kochhar earlier this year in connection with the case and he is currently in judicial custody.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in sanctioning of six loans totalling Rs 1,875 crore to Videocon Industries Ltd, Videocon International Electronics Ltd, and four other companies associated with the Videocon group between June 2009 and October 2011.
Commenting on Chanda case, noted criminal lawyer Jaikush Hoon said: “It is a profound repercussion of giving too much autonomy to the banking sector in India without sufficient checks and balances on their fleeting decisions to appease themselves and their people while misusing the public money at large.”
He said that their clandestine practice is turning into regular money laundering patterns.
“It is an alarming situation for the country and we must consider an immediate embargo on behalf of the government of India to stop such practices to continue in the country for the overall greater good,” Hoon added.
The CBI and ED also filed charge sheets against Talwar. However, he was released from judicial custody in May this year.
The CBI and ED also tightened their grip on the Yes Bank case, involving its founder Rana Kapoor. The ED filed a charge sheet in the Yes Bank case and in September attached Kapoor’s properties in London, valued at Rs 127 crore.
The ED on July 9 attached assets of Rs 2,203 crore, comprising 344 bank accounts, investments and high-end vehicles in India, New York and Australia, of Kapoor and his family, Dheeraj and Kapil Wadhawan and others under the PMLA in the Rs 3,700-crore fraud case.
The ED also made progress in its probe into the money laundering case against underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Iqbal Mirchi, his family members and others for alleged illegal dealings in the purchase and sale of Ceejay House, Sahil Bungalow, Rabia Mansion, Marium Lodge, and Sea View at prime Worli locations in Mumbai.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)
By Anand Singh