Britain’s Serious Fraud Office probing Mallya for alleged “money laundering” in UK and beyond. SFO has collected information about Mallya’s assets, his investment and shares in various companies in UK and bank details.
UK authorities have sought details of alleged money laundering and assets abroad from CBI and ED
In a major development that may spell more trouble for controversial businessman Vijay Mallya, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is conducting a probe against the liquor baron for alleged “money laundering” in UK and beyond.
Top sources told TOI that British investigators are probing alleged use of several companies for laundering money from India to UK through a circuitous route and a complex web of companies, and further to Switzerland and other countries.
In fact, sources said, SFO has already collected substantial information about Mallya’s movable and immovable assets, his investment and shares in various companies in the UK and bank account details. The financial investigation agency decided to initiate an independent probe against Mallya to examine whether the alleged money laundering involved British companies linked to him.
The UK authorities have informed India about its independent ‘formal’ probe against Mallya while seeking details of alleged money laundering and assets abroad from CBI and ED.
Government sources say the SFO action should strengthen India’s extradition case against Mallya, presently being heard in Westminster Court. To enable extradition of Vijay Mallya from London, a ‘dual criminality’ clause of his illegal activities has to be established according to the extradition treaty between two countries. The clause demands cheating of public banks in India by Mallya, and subsequent, money laundering has to be proved a ‘crime’ in the eye of British law as well.
A senior government officer said, “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 probe will provide more evidence, collected by British investigators”.
The development comes even as Mallya’s lawyers are learnt to have submitted before the senior district judge at Westminster Court, as part of a case management hearing (CMH) prior to extradition, defence evidence and claimed that they want to rely on six experts from the field of airlines, banking, politics and law, including an Indian lawyer. The Crown Prosecution Service 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 extradition hearing is expected to begin on December 4.
CBI and ED have claimed that Vijay Mallya, after taking loans from several public sector banks, wilfully defaulted and laundered several hundred crores to foreign countries, including UK, US, Switzerland and others.
In a chargesheet filed in May, ED claimed the fugitive businessman laundered around Rs 417 crore from Rs 900 crore loan taken from IDBI Bank by forming a web of companies and nominating directors in those companies who were either his personal staff, retired company officials or a third person. It said Mallya is holding directly or indirectly movable and immovable assets in the form of shares of public listed companies, by way of creating a web of shell companies.