Mumbai: A special court in Mumbai on Monday granted UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya three weeks’ time to reply to a petition by the enforcement directorate (ED) seeking to declare him a fugitive economic offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.
ED lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar argued against giving Mallya more time to file a reply, saying that under the new law, once a lawyer representing a ‘fugitive economic offender’ comes to the court, the law gives only a week’s time to file the reply, which was now over.
However, Amit Desai, senior counsel for Mallya, argued that the petition filed by the investigation agency is voluminous and that the ED has not provided certain details.
“The ED has not put every evidence in the petition that they rely upon and we believe that it will be very crucial to know those details when we file our reply,” said Desai. “The rejection of my application to grant more time will have draconian consequences. As the court knows, the case is also going on in the UK and we have to get some documents from overseas and hence we are demanding reasonable time to file the reply,” he said.
UK-based liquor giant Diageo Plc also sought to become a party in the matter, with its counsel Satish Maneshinde saying some of Mallya’s assets that the ED wants to confiscate are now owned by Diageo.
Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) judge M.S. Azmi granted time till 24 September to all the parties to file their replies in the petition filed by the ED. “After the filing of the reply, the court will conduct a day-to-day hearing of the matter for timely disposal,” said the judge.
The court on 30 June issued a notice to Mallya to appear before it on 27 August after the ED enlarged its money laundering probe against him and others in a bid by a consortium of banks to recover loans worth ₹9,000.
The ED has also sought immediate confiscation of about ₹12,500 crore worth of assets of Mallya, of which it has already taken possession of assets worth over ₹8,050 crore.
In June, the UK’s commercial court ruled in favour of a consortium of 13 Indian banks seeking to recover dues allegedly owed to them by Mallya. The commercial court, part of the high court in London, also granted permission to an enforcement officer to enter the 62-year-old tycoon’s properties in Hertfordshire, near London.