India's external affairs ministry has revoked the passport of business tycoon Vijay Mallya after he fled the country owing more than a billion dollars to multiple state-run banks. The New Delhi government has said they are consulting legal experts on intensifying efforts to bring him back to the country.
The ministry had given him a week to explain why his travel document should not be revoked or impounded. The final decision was taken against the liquor baron after his explanation was found unsatisfactory.
"Having considered the replies furnished by Vijay Mallya to the show cause notice, facts brought by the enforcement directorate, and non-bailable warrant under the PMLA Act, 2002, issued by special judge, Mumbai, the MEA [Ministry of External Affairs] revoked the passport under section 10 (3) (c) and 10 (3) (h) of the Passports Act, 1967," said the ministry's spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
Neither Mallya, nor his company, the UB Group, has as yet responded to the latest move. His travel document was earlier suspended by India's foreign ministry following a request from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) – the state-run law agency leading the investigation on money laundering allegations.
Mallya has been engaged in a bitter battle with Indian financial institutions over unpaid debts worth more than 90bn Indian rupees. He has been accused of pumping the loaned money into purchasing assets abroad instead of injecting it into the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, which faced turbulent times and had to be grounded.
Earlier, a special court issued an arrest warrant against the flamboyant businessman, who is now thought to be in the UK though his exact whereabouts remain uncertain. He left India on 2 March amid an ongoing multi-agency probe. Though he had previously promised to cooperate with the government investigation, the ED – the agency which is responsible for probing money-laundering and foreign exchange irregularities – said he did not appear before the panel on three occasions.