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Vijay Mallya controversy: Rahul Gandhi says CBI downgraded lookout notice 'with approval' from Narendra Modi

In the latest development in the war of words over the Vijay Mallya controversy between Congress and the BJP government, Rahul Gandhi alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) downgraded the Lookout Circular (LoC) against Mallya, with the "approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi".

In the tweet on Friday, Rahul said "Mallya's Great Escape" was aided by the CBI. "The CBI reports directly to the prime minister. It is inconceivable that the CBI, in such a high profile, controversial case, would change a lookout notice without the approval of the prime minister," he said. Former MP Jaipal Reddy on Friday also slammed the government and said that the government "let Mallya flee the country".

On Thursday, the CBI had clarified that the change in a 2015 lookout circular against ex-liquor baron Mallya from "detain" to merely informing about his movements was an "error" in judgement because he had been cooperating in the probe and there was no warrant against him.

CBI sources said that when the first LoC was issued on 12 October, 2015, Mallya was already abroad. Upon his return, the agency was asked by the Bureau of Immigration (BoI), if Mallya should be detained as sought in the LoC. The CBI replied that there was no need to arrest or detain him as he was a sitting MP and there was no warrant against him.

The agency said that since the probe was in an initial stage and documents were being collected from the IDBI in the Rs 900 crore loan default case, the CBI issued a fresh LoC against Mallya in the last week of November 2015 asking airport authorities across the country to "inform" it about Mallya's movements, thus replacing its previous circular which had sought detention of the businessman if he attempted to leave the country.

Mallya, who was the former Kingfisher Airlines chairman, on Wednesday created a political storm when he claimed he had met the finance minister before leaving India.

Reporters asked Mallya, who appeared before the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London in the case regarding his extradition to India, whether he was "tipped off" to leave the country. "I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth," he responded, without naming the minister.

The statement set in motion sparring between the Congress and BJP, with both parties accusing each other of being lax with the loan defaulter.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not waste time in responding to Mallya's claim. He said Mallya's "statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth". In a Facebook post, Jaitley said that Mallya had "misused" his privilege of being a member of the Rajya Sabha and "paced to catch up" with him while he was walking out of the Rajya Sabha.

India has requested Mallya's extradition from the United Kingdom so he can face trial on fraud and money laundering charges.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Sep 14, 2018 14:16:07 IST

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