On June 14, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court declared liquor baron Vijay Mallya as a proclaimed offender, ostensibly opening up the way for the Indian government to pursue extradition proceedings to bring Mally back from the UK. Yet, given the history of the case, skepticism about whether this latest move could make any difference seem warranted.
After all, it seems that even as recently as June 11, Mallya managed to stay ahead of proceedings against him to wring out a partial advantage for himself. The agency that found itself racing to take action against Mallya this time around was the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which rushed to attach Rs 1,411 crore worth of properties in a single day.
According to reports, the ED was forced to take this action, after it was found that Mallya had quietly sold off two properties in and around Coorg in order to frustrate attempts to seize them by banks and investigating agencies.
Whatâ€™s more, some commentators argue that Mallya may also be able to use the EDâ€™s actions to further paint himself as a victim of unfair and invalid procedures, and thus escape Indian agenciesâ€™ attempts to get a firm grasp on him and his assets. A failure to co-ordinate between various agencies and institutions has propped up a poorly built and loophole-filled case against Mallya, they argue, leaving many gaps for him to escape through.
In that context, the events of the past week continue along the same lines as much of the Mallya episode playing out in the last few months. Even as the authorities make much noise about their determination to get a hold of Mallya, he manages to slip through their grasp in various ways.
Thus, almost since the time Mallya escaped to London, repeated assurances were made that every effort would be taken to bring him back to India. The government even revoked Mallyaâ€™s passport purportedly in order to pursue deportation proceedings with the UK government.
Yet, the UK refused to deport Mallya citing a pre-existing law that protected from deportation a person who had entered the UK with a valid passport that had been subsequently cancelled.
As the Business Standard article argued, â€śSurely, the Indian government and their advisors should have known this law existed given their numerous failed attempts in trying to getting other people deported or extradited. Such acts give the impression that the government is either ignorant or biding away time in the hope that the matter would die down and media attention will be shifted to some other issue.â€ť
The biggest coup that Mallya pulled off, however, was his disappearing act from the country, just as efforts were being made to seize his passport and restrict his travel. Most embarrassingly for the CBI, the lookout notice issued by the agency had been modified from requiring his detention upon any attempt to leave the country to merely requiring a declaration of travel plans.
Both the AAP and the Congress have in the past accused the BJP of letting Mallya escape the grasp of the law. Whether through willful collusion or through administrative and investigative botch-ups, it seems that Mallya continues to stay one step ahead of the Indian government and its investigative agencies.