New Delhi: Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is facing legal proceedings for allegedly defaulting loans of over Rs 9,000 crores from various banks, has left the country a week back, government Wednesday informed the Supreme Court.
"I spoke to the CBI little while ago and it told me that on March 2 he (Mallya) left the country," Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi told the bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman.
The bench issued notice to Mallya and sought his response within two weeks on pleas filed by a consortium of banks seeking direction for freezing his passport and his presence before the apex court.
Since the court was informed that Mallya has already left the country, probably to UK, the bench allowed the plea of AG that the notice to him can be served through his official Rajya Sabha Email ID, Indian High Commission at London and also through counsel representing him before various high courts, Debt Recovery Tribunal and also through his Company.
During the brief hearing, the AG said that amount of more than Rs 9,000 crore was due to various banks and on one or the other pretext Mallya avoided to settle them.
There have been various proceedings going on against him in debt recovery tribunals in Bangalore and Goa, he said.
When the bench wanted to know what was the petitioner seeking, the AG said there was a need for a garnishee order and there was also a need for disclosure on behalf of Mallya.
Rohatgi said the banks were seeking an order that Mallya should appear in person before this court and also sought a direction for freezing his passport.
The AG said that Mallya has assets, both movable and immovable, abroad which are far excessive to loans secured by him here.
At this, the bench wanted to know how the banks have granted him loan under such circumstances.
The AG said the loans were granted keeping in mind that Kingfisher Airlines had a fleet of aircraft as well as brand value and loans were given also on the basis of the logo and the aircraft were attached to the third party.
The AG said, "Today I submit he (Mallya) should appear before you (SC). We want disclosure. We want to recover money, which is public money."
After this submission the bench concluded the hearing and dictated the order by issuing notice to Mallya saying, "if he is already out of the country, we will permit you to serve the notice through Indian High Commission at London and also through his official email ID of Rajya Sabha, of which he is a member."
The consortium of banks, in their appeal, have assailed the March 4 order of the Karnataka High Court refusing an "ex- parte ad interim" order against Mallya, England-based Diageo Plc and United Spirits Limited.
The banks said that the High Court should have passed an interim order, securing their financial interests, without hearing the industrialist and others including debtor firm Kingfisher Airlines Limited.
Prior to moving the High Court, the banks had filed four pleas in the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) at Bengaluru seeking reliefs like freezing of Mallya's passport, arrest warrant against him and issuance of a "garnishee order against Respondent Nos. 10 (Diageo Plc) and 11 (United Spirits Limited) from disbursing USD 75 million".
They had also sought a direction to Mallya that he should disclose his assets on oath.
The banks had moved the DRT in the backdrop of Mallya's recent resignation from the chairmanship of United Spirits.
Diageo Plc, the current owner of the liquor company, has agreed to pay USD 75 million (approx. Rs 515 crore) to Mallya as severance package.
Besides SBI, other banks which have moved the SC are: Axis Bank Limited, Bank of Baroda, Corporation Bank, Federal Bank Limited, IDBI Bank Limited, Indian Overseas Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited, Punjab and Sind Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of Mysore, UCO Bank and United Bank of India.
The banks have also sought a direction to Mallya to "furnish suitable security for his appearance before the DRT" during the pendency of banks' original applications for recovering debts.
The banks have also arraigned firms like Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd, Kingfisher Finvest (India) Ltd, SBICAP Trustee Company Ltd as parties.
The plea said the banks "individually" had advanced loans to Kingfisher Airlines Limited and by way of a Master Debts Recast Agreement (MDRA), executed on December 21, 2010, and related documents ("Financing Documents"), the existing loans were restructured and was treated as a single facility.