Mallya objects to SBI plea for arrest in debt case

Bengaluru: Industrialist Vijay Mallya on Thursday objected to the State Bank of India’s (SBI) interlocutory application (IA) before the debt recovery tribunal, seeking his arrest in the Kingfisher Airline’s multi-crore loan default case.

“We have filed our objections against the bank’s IA on the ground that it (tribunal) is not the forum to seek a defaulter’s arrest or impound his passport,” Mallya’s counsel told IANS here.

The IA also sought a directive from the tribunal to the authority concerned for impounding Mallya’s passport, evaluate his assets and claim on the $75 million (Rs.516 crore) severance package British liquor major Diageo and its Indian arm United Spirits Ltd (USL) signed with him on February 25 here.

Tribunal judge R. Benkanahalli posted the IA for next hearing to Friday and gave notice to Mallya for filing objection, if any, after the bank counsel’s arguments on Wednesday.

“The quasi-judicial tribunal is meant to facilitate banks and financial institutions recover speedily outstanding loans and avoid procedural delays in civil courts,” Mallya’s counsel said.

SBI’s advocate also admitted that he had filed four IAs before the tribunal for Mallya’s arrest, impounding his passport, inventory of his assets in India and other countries and first right over Diageo’s sweetheart deal in lieu of his resignation as chairman and non-executive director of USL.

Mallya, who is also an independent lawmaker from Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha, is reportedly in New Delhi to attend the on-going budget session of Parliament.

A SBI-led consortium of 17 state-run and private banks filed an application before the tribunal a day after (February 26) seeking a directive to Mallya for paying the amount Diageo and USL agreed to pay him over the next five years, including $40 million this year and the balance $35 million by 2020.

Debt-ridden Kingfisher Ltd owes the consortium Rs.7,800 crore as combined loans, including Rs.1,600 crore from lead bank SBI that were raised from 2004-12.

The defunct airline suspended operations in October 2012 due to a staff strike over non-payment of salaries and other dues and the civil aviation regulator DGCA terminated its licence subsequently.

The SBI-led consortium moved the tribunal after CBI director Anil Sinha expressed concern over its delay in acting against Mallya at the seventh CBI conference on combating financial crimes on Wednesday in Mumbai.

“We had recently (July 2015) registered a case of cheating and fraud against Kingfisher and its erstwhile management involving allegations of defrauding banks up to Rs.7,800 crore, borrowed as loans/advances by the bankrupt airline during 2004-2012,” Sinha recalled at the day-long conference, organised by the CBI in partnership with Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).

Observing that there was a growing sense of anguish among the public over increasing bad loans as non-performing assets, Sinha said while banks were strict on retail borrowers, the big borrowers and large-scale fraudsters were able to not only evade the law, but also enjoy the fruits of crime.

“Undue delay in identifying and reporting such a fraud has jeopardised the cause of justice to the offenders benefit, giving them opportunity to divert funds and destroy evidence,” Sinha added.