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CBI says it downgraded the lookout notice against Vijay Mallya as he had ‘initially been co-operative’ and it did not expect him to leave.

New Delhi: The CBI Thursday said it watered down its 16 October, 2015, lookout notice issued against debt-ridden liquor baron Vijay Mallya because it did not consider him a “flight risk”.

The lookout notice had gone from directing immigration authorities to “detain” Mallya to merely urging authorities to “inform” the CBI about “his arrival at an airport and his travel plans”.

Under fire for the changed lookout notice, one that allowed Mallya to flee the country, the CBI claimed that it downgraded the lookout notice as Mallya was initially “cooperative” and hence it did not expect him to leave.

Also read: The 6 complicated steps India needs to take to extradite Vijay Mallya

Three visits abroad after changed notice

The watering down of the terms of the lookout notice allowed the liquor baron to enter and exit India. Mallya himself took advantage of it, visiting London thrice between December 2015 and February 2016.

According to sources, Mallya first left for London on 1 December, 2015, and then returned a week later on 7 December. After his arrival, he even joined the questioning by CBI on 11 December. He again left the country on 23 December and returned on 2 February.

Each time, however, he made sure he returned to India, informed the agency about his travel plans, before he fled to London for good in March 2016.

Tale of two notices

When the CBI first issued a lookout circular against Mallya in October 2015, it was done to ensure that it had prior information of his travel plans.

Just a day before Mallya was to return to India from London, however, a second lookout circular was issued on CBI’s request, on 24 November, 2015, asking immigration authorities to merely “inform it about Mallya’s arrival at the airport”.

According to sources, this was done as the CBI did not intend to arrest Mallya at that point, due to lack of evidence and a formal complaint against him.

Sources in the CBI said that when Mallya returned to India on 24 November, the Bureau of Immigration had asked the agency if it should detain him. It was then that the CBI, sources said, decided to lower the terms of the lookout circular.
“At that time, there was no non-bailable arrest warrants against him. The probe was at an initial stage and he was a sitting MP. He had joined the probe,” an officer said.
“He was frequently going and coming back. Between his first return to India (24th November 2015) and before he escaped, he joined the probe thrice and always returned to India after his visits abroad.”

‘No bank initially approached agency’

The CBI says it registered a case of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Mallya on 29 July, 2015, based on “source information”. No bank, it claims, approached it with a formal complaint accusing Mallya of not paying his debts.

According to sources, for the three trips he took to London, Mallya informed the agency that he was going abroad for business meetings and would return.

Also read: Liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya claims he met finance minister before leaving India

“He, however, did not inform the agency about his visit in March 2016, and he has not returned since,” an officer said.

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