ED slaps Mallya with money-laundering case, tribunal tells Diageo not to pay him until cases disposed off

Bengaluru: The Debt Recovery Tribunal on Monday ordered Britain’s Diageo and its Indian arm, United Spirits Ltd not to pay industrialist Vijay Mallya the $75 million deal amount till the case against him before it is disposed.

The order came on a day when the Enforcement Director (ED) registered a money-laundering case against founder of now defunct Kingfisher Airlines and liquor baron Vijay Mallya, official sources said.

“We have filed a case against Mallya on Monday. The case is specifically based on the case registered by the CBI against him and others in 2015,” Assistant Director (Enforcement Directorate) A.K. Rawal told IANS in New Delhi.

The businessman and the top executives of what was once Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) have been booked under Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Rawal said.

The measure follows an audit of the Rs.7,200 crore loan that a consortium of 11 public sector banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI) had extended to the KFA which the airline failed to repay.

The KFA is alleged to have diverted as much as Rs.4,000 crore of that money to international tax havens like Mauritius and Cayman Islands.

ED slaps Mallya with money-laundering case, tribunal tells Diageo not to pay him until cases disposed off

Other businesses of Mallya were also being scrutinized by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, an official, requesting anonymity, told IANS in Mumbai.

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Anil Sinha had expressed dismay last week in Mumbai over the laxity of the lending banks and regulatory agencies in taking action against Mallya, other KFA directors and officials.

It is feared that Mallya might become a fugitive from law by shifting base to a country where it might be difficult to make him face the law, officials said. The flamboyant businessman recently announced his plans to spend more time in England.

He has denied all charges against him and taken exception to being labelled a “wilful defaulter” by lenders. He has also denied he was planning to flee the country and said he was ready to cooperate with the lenders to settle the debt.

Last month, Mallya agreed to quit as chairman of United Spirits Ltd. in return for a settlement by the British alcoholic beverages giant Diageo.