In a significant victory for the investigating agencies, a Mumbai Special Court on Saturday declared absconder liquor baron Vijay Mallya a 'fugitive' under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
A Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Court in Mumbai gave its verdict in a case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in June 2018.
In the first of its kind case under the FEOA, on June 22 last year, the ED moved the Special PMLA Court seeking to declare Mallya a 'fugitive economic offender' under the new act, to enable confiscation of all his properties, estimated at over Rs 12,000 crore.
However, through his lawyers, Mallya told the Special Court that he had not fled the country but left in the ordinary course to attend a meeting in Switzerland in March 2016 at the World Motor Sport Council and the arrest warrant against him was issued much later.
Special PMLA Court Judge M.S. Azmi will start hearing arguments on confiscation of Mallya's properties from February.
Under the FEOA, any person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or is abroad or refuses to return to India will face criminal prosecution.
After the person is declared a 'fugitive economic offender', the prosecuting agency is vested with the powers to confiscate all his assets and properties to recover the dues.
Mallya, 63, was summoned by the Special Court in Mumbai to appear before it on August 27, but he failed to honour the court summons, besides other notices, summons and arrest warrants by the ED wanting to question him.
He flew out of the country around March 2016 even as a consortium of 13 banks -- led by the State Bank of India (SBI) -- was preparing to initiate loan recovery proceedings against him for over Rs 9,000 crore.
Late last year, Indian government had filed extradition proceedings against him which he has contested. Pending the final verdict in the case, he is currently on bail in London.