While there is lot of public sentiment attached to the kidnapping of former Indian Navy personnel Kulbhushan Jadhav from Iran and his subsequent death sentence by a Pakistani military court, there also seems to exist much public ire at the “failure” of the Indian diplomatic machinery to bring back India’s financial offenders who allegedly escaped to foreign waters to avoid prosecution.
Segregating the two issues, A.B. Mahapatra, Director, CASS-India (Centre for Asian Strategic Studies), said, “Diplomacy plays a key role when it comes to handling matters related to our countrymen living abroad. In the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, we don’t have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, but we do have a set-up of bilateral relations and consular channels to deal with each other. However, with Pakistan in the equation, every matter between the two nations goes up notches higher. But we do not have a similar excuse to make when it comes to extraditing financial offenders who were allowed to escape to other nations.”
Earlier this week, a Delhi court had issued an open-ended Non-Bailable Warrant (NBW) against businessman Vijay Mallya in a case of allegedly evading summons in a FERA violation matter. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass passed the order after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) submitted that the NBW issued on 4 November last year by the court had not been executed and it needs more time to do so. Unlike NBW, an “open-ended NBW” does not carry a time limit for execution.
The ED had issued summons to the businessman in connection with the alleged payment of $200,000 to a British firm for displaying the Kingfisher logo in Formula One World Championships in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It had claimed that the money was allegedly paid without prior approval from the RBI in violation of FERA norms.
Speaking about the challenges in extraditing financial offenders, Mahapatra said, “These people, who we view as financial criminals here, are seen as financial boosters for foreign companies. Then it becomes pretty much obvious that the countries they escape to or seek help from will not allow these people to land in jail. This makes it impossible to extradite them through legal channels.”
In September last year, Mallya, who is reportedly in London, had explained to the court through his representatives that he wanted to come back to India but was “incapacitated” to travel despite “best intentions” as his passport had been revoked. To this, ED on 4 October had told the court that Mallya had no intention to return to India and his passport was revoked due to his own conduct.
Similarly, in the case of Lalit Modi, accused of money laundering in the Indian Premier League, speculation prevailed that the reason India could not get a “red-corner notice’ issued by Interpol against him was because he had high-connections in Interpol. However, Lalit Modi had reportedly denied such charges in an interview to a media outlet and had said that he had hired Rutsel Martha, a former legal counsel for Interpol as his lawyer, to “understand the law and not to influence it.”
Mahapatra said, “Our intelligence agencies are lagging behind by miles compared to international intelligence agencies. While the United States had the backing of 400 think-tanks for the Indo-US nuclear deal, India had a team of six people heading the decisions.”
According to legal experts, the best bet India has to bring Mallya back is to either convince him to come on his own accord or to use the money laundering case against him, as money laundering is an offence in both the countries.
Other than Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi, Indian agencies have also failed to extradite Navy war room leak accused Ravi Shankaran from the United Kingdom.