In a new development in the Vijay Mallya extradition case, it has been revealed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had downgraded the fugitive businessman's look out circular (LOC) in November 2015 from "detain the subject" to the authorities only informing the agency regarding his entry and exit. The letter by the CBI also stated that detention at that point was not required.
The CBI has now said that this was an error in judgment.
This was the second LOC. The first LOC was sent out on October 16, 2015, and the CBI had checked the box to "prevent the subject from leaving India".
On November 23, 2015, the immigration authorities had sent out a notice to the CBI via Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) that Mallya would land at the Delhi airport from a foreign location.
The CBI then sent a letter to Mumbai Police on November 24, 2015, giving instructions and a new LOC stating that "detention of the subject at this stage is not required by us. In case of detention is required in the future, it will be communicated separately. The LOC established in respect of the subject may also be amended accordingly," according to the Indian Express.
Four months later, in March 2016, Mallya left for London and is currently residing there.
The report continues to state that the CBI was unaware of the alert from the APIS and now that they were aware of it, there was no need to detain Mallya. The letter was signed by CBI's SP in Mumbai, Harshita Attaluri, and was sent to Aswati Dorje of Mumbai Police.
The CBI defended its move of downgrading the LOC by stating, "However, had it been known at that point that advance information is also available in your database/records, we would have phrased the annexure differently. We request you to inform the advance arrival/departure of the subject discreetly. Detention of the subject at this stage is not required by us…" according to the Indian Express.
After releasing the second LOC and later realising its mistake, the CBI said that it was an error in judgment. It later said that they would have detained Mallya if they had more evidence.
A PTI report on September 13 quoted the CBI stating that the second LOC was an error on their part. Two days later, CBI released a statement saying that "the decision to change the LOC against Vijay Mallya was taken because at the time there wasn't sufficient ground for the CBI to detain and arrest him."
On Friday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked the BJP saying that the second LOC was modified in 2015 under the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a tweet, Gandhi said, "Mallya's Great Escape was aided by the CBI quietly changing the "Detain" notice for him, to "Inform". The CBI reports directly to the PM. It is inconceivable that the CBI, in such a high profile, controversial case, would change a lookout notice without the approval of the PM."
The government is currently negotiating with the UK government to extradite Mallya from London so he can face his charges in India and be imprisoned here.