New Delhi (AFP) – India’s government said Friday it had temporarily suspended the passport of beleaguered tycoon Vijay Mallya, after he failed to appear before financial crime investigators in connection with a money laundering probe.
Mallya is also being chased by a group of banks over $1.34 billion in unpaid loans and is believed to be in Britain.
After issuing three summonses for the 60-year-old liquor baron, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) asked the foreign ministry to revoke Mallya’s passport, with a view to having him brought back to India.
“On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the passport issuing authority in the Ministry of External Affairs has today suspended the validity of Mr. Vijay Mallya’s diplomatic passport with immediate effect for a period of four weeks,” said a statement tweeted by foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup.
Mallya, a member of parliament, left the country on March 2 on a diplomatic passport. He has not been charged with any crime.
“Mr. Mallya has been asked to respond within one week as to why his passport should not be impounded or revoked,” the statement said, adding that if the businessman fails to respond, the ministry will revoke the document.
The ED’s probe relates to loans that state-run IDBI bank made to Mallya’s now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, despite allegedly knowing it was suffering financial troubles, leading the bank to sustain huge losses. The airline ceased operations in 2012.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation registered an initial probe into loan fraud in October 2015, prompting the financial crimes agency to launch its own investigation into money laundering.
“Where there is scope that money has been siphoned off, we have to investigate that,” an Enforcement Directorate spokesman told AFP.
Separately, the Supreme Court has ordered the embattled tycoon to disclose his total assets, as well as those of his wife and children, by April 21.
Despite Mallya’s absence he continues to tweet regularly on topics including Formula One — he owns a stake in the Force India F1 team — and cricket.