In a major setback to beleaguered aviation entrepreneur Naresh Goyal, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to grant him permission to fly out of the country. While dismissing Goyal’s plea which challenged the government’s look-out circular (LOC) issued against him, the high court asked him to deposit ₹18,000 crore as guarantee if he wished to fly aboard, the Press Trust of India reported.
According to the PTI report, the court was informed by the Centre that there was a serious case of fraud involving ₹18,000 crore [at Jet Airways] which is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office.
Besides, Goyal’s grounded airline Jet Airways owes banks and other creditors, which includes unpaid salaries to its employees, over $2 billion (Over ₹14,000 crore). At present, the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal is hearing a bankruptcy plea filed against the airline by its bankers, led by the country’s largest lender, State Bank of India.
It is unclear though as to how much of the airline’s assets could be monetised. For one, the dozen odd aircraft that Jet Airways owns are already said to be mortgaged to financiers. Likewise, a portion of the airline’s office in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex has been mortgaged to the Housing Development Finance Corporation, which is now staking claim to three floors of the airline’s office.
On May 25, Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal were offloaded from an Emirates flight from Mumbai to Dubai with an onward connected to London. Ironically, the U.K. capital is now home to many of India’s economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, and Nirav Modi, among others.
While the Indian government did make some headway with the extradition of Mallya, founder of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines, the courts in the U.K. are now hearing a plea against his extradition. “A division bench of the English high court with two senior judges allowed my application to appeal against the magistrate’s judgment on the prima facie case and charges by the CBI. I always said the charges were false,” Mallya tweeted on July 2.
He put out another tweet that read: “Despite the good court result for me today, I once again repeat my offer to pay back the banks that lent money to Kingfisher Airlines in full. Please take the money. With the balance. I also want to pay employees and other creditors and move on in life.”
In March this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that properties worth ₹14,000 crore belonging to Mallya had been seized, even though the total liability against him stands at ₹9,000 crore. Interestingly, Mallya had left the country on March 2, 2016 on board a Jet Airways flight from New Delhi to London, even though there was a LOC issued against him.
A report in The Economic Times on March 11, 2016, though, stated: “There are four kinds of lookout circulars, which are issued against persons being investigated by agencies: 1) Where immigration tracks the travel plans of an individual; 2) Where immigration immediately informs the agency concerned; 3) Where immigration stops the person from leaving; 4) Where immigration takes the person into custody.” The LOC issued against Mallya was of the second kind, the report said.