- Lookout notice against Vijay Mallya diluted before he left India
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said never gave appointment to Mr Mallya
- Opposition has criticised the CBI for diluting its lookout notice
A lookout notice against Vijay Mallya, calling for his detention on sight at airports, was diluted months before he left India for the UK in the middle of loan fraud investigations against him. After the fugitive businessman's sensational claim about meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving, questions have been raised about the notice and why he was allowed to leave.
The CBI says the notice, put out on October 16, 2015, was converted weeks later on November 24 into a notice for "report on arrival" because it didn't believe Mr Mallya was a flight risk. The liquor tycoon had, at the time, frequently travelled between India and the UK.
The first notice, the investigation agency said, was a "mistake" -- the Mumbai immigration branch checked out the detention column while filling a form.
The notice was issued after the CBI registered its first case against Mr Mallya on July 29, 2015, based on information from sources -- no bank had formally complained, the agency says. When the lookout notice was issued in October, Mr Mallya was in London.
He returned the day the notice was downgraded, and left again on December 1.
The CBI says it received a call from immigration the day before his arrival, on November 23, asking whether Mr Mallya should be detained. That's when a corrected lookout circular was put out.
Mr Mallya left again for London on December 1 and returned on December 7. He left on December 23.
He returned on February 2, 2016 and left six days later. He returned again the same month and then left on March 2. This time, he never returned.
The CBI says Mr Mallya was questioned on December 9, 10 and 11. There was no reason to believe he could escape, said officials, defending the diluted notice.
Opposition parties have latched onto Mr Mallya's claims to once again attack the government and accuse it of letting big fish escape punishment.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury said Mr Mallya's escape reconfirmed how the Modi government "enables big defaulters to loot public money and scoot".
As with the Rafale scam and Choksi scam, this latest revelation by Mallya puts Modi govt in the dock. It is not the finance minister alone, we cannot be sure what other facts are being hidden even now. #Mallya#Modi#Scams- Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) September 12, 2018
Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan criticised the CBI for diluting its lookout notice.
"Mallya says he met Jaitley to offer a settlement and told him he was going abroad. Jaitley says no particular settlement was offered. Whatever the truth, there is no denying that CBI lowered its lookout notice from 'detain' to 'inform', to allow his escape," Mr Bhushan said on Wednesday.