File photo of Vijay Mallya
NEW DELHI: “Painstaking and meticulous” investigation and countless visits to London by CBI officer Suman Kumar finally bore fruit after three long years in the bank fraud case against flamboyant businessman Vijay Mallya.
Mallya, the high-flying owner of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, on Thursday lost his application seeking leave to appeal his extradition to India in the UK Supreme Court, setting a 28-day clock on his removal from the UK.
The extradition case pertains to the alleged bank fraud of Rs 900 crore in IDBI Bank. The embattled liquor baron also faces probe in another case related to alleged fraud amounting of more than Rs 9,000 crore in a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India.
Kumar was assigned the case against Mallya, known for his ostentatious lifestyle and who had made his way to the Indian Parliament as a Rajya Sabha member, as the DSP of Banking Frauds and Security Cell, Mumbai in October, 2015. Kumar is now an additional superintendent of police in the country’s premier investigation agency.
Mallya was facing the media heat as his failing aviation company was finding it difficult to pay staff salaries and retain premium services it had promised to its customers with clamour for booking him increasing day by day, sources in the agency had said.
It was a tricky situation for the CBI as the lending banks did not file any complaint against Mallya in spite of serious allegations of fraud against him, they said.
The agency decided to go ahead and used its source-based information to register the first FIR against Mallya related to Rs 900 crore alleged loan fraud against him. And Kumar was entrusted with the probe.
The officer, who joined the agency as a 23-year-old sub-inspector, by then had an impeccable record as an ace investigator of white-collar crimes winning the CBI gold medal for best investigating officer in 2002 handed over by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004.
Fifty-five-year-old Kumar, honed in traditional CBI style of investigation, had also received the Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 2008, outstanding investigator in 2013 and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2015 when he took over the case.
In 2016, Mallya escaped the country causing an embarrassment to the agency and triggering an uphill legal battle in the courts of the United Kingdom to bring him back.
The then Additional Director, Rakesh Asthana, took over reins of the case as the Chief of the Special Investigation Team. He and Kumar proved to be a potent team investigating the case, making rounds of London to ensure not a single hearing is missed and coordinating with the Crown Prosecution Service which was representing the case in courts in London.
The job was difficult as India had an abysmal record in succeeding in extradition cases in Europe, especially the United Kingdom. The case was fought by the Crown Prosecution Service with active support from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.
Kumar ensured a concrete case of fraud is established and a charge sheet is filed in India to make a strong case for Mallya’s extradition. It was imperative that India had a case against Mallya which was punishable in laws of the United Kingdom.
Through his exhaustive probe, Kumar managed to establish alleged fraud and money laundering in his probe for which charge sheets were filed in India.
“We were not contesting a trial there. We had to convince the courts that a prima facie case is made out to justify extradition to India,” a senior officer said.
The findings reached by Kumar in his probe managed to achieve a conclusive argument in support of extradition of Mallya to India which culminated in the UK High Court denying him the leave to approach the Supreme Court to challenge his extradition.
Kumar was lauded by the CBI for his efforts in the case.
“CBI appreciates the painstaking investigation, the hard work and the meticulous efforts of Investigating Officer Suman Kumar, Additional SP, CBI in successfully pursuing investigation and extradition proceedings against the fugitive,” the agency spokesperson said.