The Supreme Court on Thursday declined a plea for diplomatic immunity raised by Aircel founder, C Sivasankaran, who is facing money laundering charges.
Sivasankaran had claimed he was an ‘Ambassador at large’ for the Republic of Seychelles and was protected from criminal prosecution under the Vienna Convention.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it was a ploy to ward off prosecution, and referred to a communication from the Seychelles government that Sivasankaran was not on official duty. The court accepted Mehta’s arguments.
The Madras High Court had earlier refused to quash a look out circular (LOC) issued against Sivasankaran by the Foreigner Regional Registration Officer (FRRO), Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs. The LOC had prevented him from travelling abroad due to an ongoing inquiry by the CBI and the ED into allegations of having caused a loss of over ₹600 crore to IDBI Bank.
The High Court had pointed out that an Office Memorandum issued by the Centre in 2010, and amended in 2017, permitted the FRRO to prevent individuals from travelling abroad if such departure had to be curbed in public interest. The High Ccourt had also rejected his claim of diplomatic immunity.
“This may involve guarantee of liberty to a person under Article 21 of the Constitution but the genesis of the action is connected with pending criminal prosecution, the umbilical cord whereof has not yet snapped,” the High Court had said.
The allegations include an IDBI Bank loan of ₹322.40 crore to Finland-based Win Wind Oy, in which the businessman’s son, S Saravanan, was one of the directors.
Despite knowing about the poor financial status of Siva Group of Companies, led by the businessman, top officials of the IDBI Bank colluded with him and extended further credit facilities of ₹523 crore in favour of group company, Axcel Sunshine Limited, based in British Virgin Islands, for repaying loans of other associate companies.
The CBI had registered a case against Axcel Sunshine and 38 others, including some public servants, under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988. The case was registered on directions from the Central Vigilance Commission. Subsequently, the ED also registered a separate case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 and attached ₹224.60-crore worth assets. The Hindu BusinessLine