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CBI to probe UPA Finance Minister angle in loans to Vijay Mallya




NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation has opened a probe with an intent to file a fresh chargesheet on the involvement of finance ministry officials in the disbursal of loans from public sector banks to Kingfisher Airlines during the UPA government.

ET has reliably gathered that the CBI has already officially approached the finance ministry and formally obtained relevant documentation to build its case. These files, sources said, are currently being scrutinised for further interrogation of officials.

Those familiar with the details of the proceedings told ET that some officials from the relevant period have already been questioned. Sources said these are initial inquires, which will continue as the probe widens.

Key to CBI’s probe are the correspondence and email exchanges recovered during the search of Kingfisher Airlines owner Vijay Mallya’s residence.

These were also documented in the report of the corporate ministry’s Serious Fraud Investigation Office.

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Most of these mails were between Mallya and his key company advisers in the financial restructuring of the airline, particularly AK Ravi Nedungadi, Harish Bhat and A Raghunathan.

CBI seized more than a lakh internal email exchanges that cover the period between 2008 and 2013. These, according to an insider, also document communications with PMO, finance ministry, civil aviation ministry and petroleum ministry among others. The focus was largely on bank loans and supply of aircraft turbine fuel on credit.

The agency is specifically investigating the role of then joint secretary (banking) Amitabh Verma. Among the several references to Verma, the one which has caught the agency’s attention is Mallya’s email to Ravi Nedungadi on March 26, 2009 regarding a disbursement of Rs 500 crore from State Bank of India.

Mallya wrote: “Amitabh called me to ask how the SBI meeting went, I gave him a detailed report and emphasised the urgency and criticality of getting an adhoc disbursement of Rs 500 crore by March 31. Amitabh said he had spoken to Mr Bhat and that this disbursement would happen.”

The SBI, according to evidence available with CBI, did sanction this credit of Rs 500 crore by April. This was apparently reflected in SBI’s annual appraisal report as part of Kingfisher’s Rs 2,000-crore credit requirements.

The CBI is also investigating claims made in emails that this assistance was made possible by the political intervention of several UPA ministers. Until now, the case against Mallya has revolved around him defaulting on loan repayment, which was then converted to fraud after he fled the country. The Central Bureau of Investigation is already in the court in the UK seeking Mallya’s extradition.

The CBI’s premise is that public sector banks were forced into lending to Kingfisher without due diligence. Those being looked at closely are Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Canara Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank and Syndicate Bank.

ERROR OF JUDGEMENT

Meanwhile, the CBI said on Thursday the change in a 2015 Look Out Circular against liquor baron Vijay Mallya from “detain” to merely informing about his movements was an “error” in judgement because he was cooperating in the probe and there was no warrant against him.



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