The Supreme Court today held businessman Vijay Mallya guilty of contempt of court for transferring USD 40 million to his children in violation of the court’s order.
The apex court directed Mallya, who is presently in the United Kingdom, to appear before it on July 10 to argue on the quantum of punishment in the matter.
India had recently asked Britain to ensure early extradition of Mallya, who is an accused in a bank loan default case of over Rs 9000 crore involving his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“We have found respondent number 3 (Mallya) guilty of contempt of court on two grounds,” a bench comprising Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said.
The order came on a plea by consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI), which had said that Mallya had allegedly transferred USD 40 million received from British firm Diageo, to his children in “flagrant violation” of various judicial orders.
The apex court had on March 9 asked the liquor baron about the “truthfulness” of his disclosure of assets and the transfer of money to his children.
The bench had reserved its order on two pleas of lending banks seeking contempt action and a direction to Mallya to deposit USD 40 million received from offshore firm Diageo respectively.
The banks have alleged that Mallya concealed the facts and diverted the money to his son Siddharth Mallya and daughters Leanna Mallya and Tanya Mallya in “flagrant violation” of the orders passed by the Karnataka High Court.
The bench had also posed several queries to consortium of banks and asked it whether any criminal proceedings have been initiated against Mallya.
The court had asked Mallya as to why he did not disclose the receipt of USD 40 million from London-based company Diageo Plc and subsequent transfer of money to trusts to which his three children were the beneficiaries.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the banks, had contended that unless Mallya deposits USD 40 million before this court, he does not deserve to be heard and, moreover, he needed to appear personally as the contempt notice has already been issued.
The AG had also told the court that the government is seeking deportation of Mallya from the UK.
Divan had referred to various orders passed by the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT), the High Court and the Supreme Court and said that the DRT has passed a decree in favour of the banks and the amount to be recovered is approximately Rs 9,200 crores.
There was a specific order of the High Court that Mallya will not transfer or alienate any movable and immovable assets to any person, he had said.
The bench had asked as to how the decree of the DRT to recover Rs 9,200 crore would be executed, to which the AG had said “God knows, how will it get the money back,” adding that Mallya has taken this court for “a ride”.
The bench had also asked C S Vaidyanathan, Mallya’s counsel, about the response on the contempt notice. The lawyer had said that an application for recall of the order has been filed and according to him, no contempt is made out and hence, the plea itself can be considered as the reply.
Mallya’s counsel had said the money which came from Diageo belonged to his children and not him.
The bench had shot back: “Somebody who is faced with a default of Rs 6,200 crore and suppose if he gets Rs 3,000 crore, he should have given it to repay the dues”.
Vaidyanathan maintained that the USD 40 million was not covered under the injunction order.
In October last year, the court had rapped Mallya for not making full disclosure of his overseas properties and had asked him to do so within a month.
The bench had also pulled up Mallya for not giving details of USD 40 million which he had allegedly received from Diageo in February last year, saying it was of the “prima facie view” that proper disclosure as per its earlier order was not made.
The banks had on August 29 last year told the Supreme Court that Mallya had deliberately not made full disclosure of his assets including the USD 40 million he received on February 25 from Diageo.