The Supreme Court on Tuesday found fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya guilty of contempt for wilful disobedience of the court’s order to come clean about his assets and not disclosing a sum of $40 million (₹600 crore) he received from British liquor major Diageo Plc following his resignation as Chairman of United Spirits Limited in February 2016.
Mr. Mallya had told the Supreme Court that the $40 million was one among “thousands of transactions” he did and cannot be counted as an asset. He said he had no control over that money now as he had already disbursed it among his three adult children, who are U.S. citizens.
Countering allegations made by a banking consortium led by the State Bank of India which had filed the contempt of court petition against him, Mr. Mallya said he had implicitly complied with the Supreme Court order and given a complete list of assets as of March 31, 2016. The court had ordered Mr. Mallya to provide the banks with a list of his assets so that they could recover ₹9,200 crore due to them.
‘Violation of HC order’
The banks had sought contempt action against Mr. Mallya arguing that the disbursal of the $40 million among his three children was in direct violation of a standing Karnataka High Court order that none of his assets should be “alienated, disposed of or be subjected to the creation of third party rights.”
“His wilful, contumacious conduct of siphoning off the money and disbursing it out of reach of the authorities at a certain level shows that the gentleman is mocking the Indian judicial system. Please issue an injunction directing him to bring the money [40 million] back forthwith,” senior advocate Shyam Divan had argued for the banks.
A notice of contempt from the SC was then already pending against Mr. Mallya for allegedly supplying the banks with vague information about assets in India and abroad. But instead of being either present in court or even filing a response to the contempt notice, he had opted to file an application in the SC for recall of the contempt notice.
The court on Tuesday ordered Mr. Mallya to be present on July 10 for his sentencing order.
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi and senior advocate Shyam Diwan had said the businessman was taking the Supreme Court “for a ride” and his conduct showed he cared “two hoots” for the judiciary.
While reserving the case for judgment on March 9, Justice Goel had asked Mr. Rohatgi whether there was any action that could be taken under the criminal law to secure the presence of Mr. Mallya back in an Indian court.
Mr. Rohatgi had informed the Supreme Court that the case of deportation was before the Westminster Magistrates Court.
“When you [Supreme Court] pass an order of contempt, we will show it in the proceedings in England,” Mr. Rohatgi had submitted.
It is reported that ₹8000 crore worth of properties of Mr. Mallya lie attached under the anti-money laundering law and he has income tax dues of about ₹2,000 crore.