Over the past 30 months, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not conducted any internal inquiry to fix responsibility for the downgrading of the look-out circular (LoC) against the tycoon Vijay Mallya from request for detention to only seeking information on his movement at immigration checkpoints.
A retired CBI chief, on condition of anonymity, said that as far as he could recall, no such change in the LoC requirement was made in the past. Asked if such a change had ever been carried out in any other case, the agency on Friday said it would have to check the database.
“With hindsight, the decision in Mallya case may now be questioned. However, after the look-out circular was issued seeking Mr. Mallya’s detention, the then officials who were handling the case took a view that the requirement should be brought down to only seeking information, considering several aspects,” a serving agency official said.
Stating that there is a clear chain of command in the agency for taking decisions, the official said no need for an inquiry into the issue was felt, given the circumstances in which the change was made in the LoC.
Recounting the sequence of events, the official said despite repeated requests, the banks involved in the matter had not been coming forward to lodge a complaint.
The CBI had gone ahead and registered an FIR on July 29, 2015, based on source information in connection with the IDBI Bank case, following which all the documents were sought.
The searches on the premises linked to Mr. Mallya were conducted in October 2015.
“By virtue of being a Rajya Sabha member, he held a diplomatic passport and with it, came several privileges. After the LoC against him was amended, he undertook multiple trips abroad and also came back. He had been cooperating with the investigating team. Also, he had huge stakes, investments in other companies and also owned several immovable and movable assets in India,” said the official.
The CBI had not yet filed any charge sheet against Mr. Mallya and there was no non-bailable warrant against him.
Eye-opener for agency
Mr. Mallya went to London on December 1, 2015, and came back six days later. He was questioned by the CBI on December 9, 10 and 11 the same year.
He again flew out to London on December 23, 2015, and returned on February 2 the next year.
He made another trip to London in February and again came back.
“At that time, there were no indications whatsoever that he would flee the country. This case has been an eye-opener for the agency. It brought several changes in our approach towards investigations,” said the official.
The last time Mr. Mallya flew out to London on March 2, 2016, using the diplomatic passport, and refused to come back to face trial. It was in August 2016, on a complaint from the consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India, that the CBI registered another FIR against him and others to probe the larger case of alleged wilful loan default.