The government has sought an Economic Fugitive status for Devas Multimedia’s founder and former CEO, Ramanathan Viswanathan, from International Crime Police Organisation (Interpol). Sources told BusinessLine that the Indian government has approached Interpol to issue a Red Notice Status against Viswanathan, in response to Viswanathan not responding to court summons in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act Case, which the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was pursuing.
A Red Notice could potentially bolster India’s extradition case against Viswanathan, who is currently residing in the US. While it is not exactly an arrest warrant, a Red Notice is an alert for Interpol members that states an individual is a wanted fugitive. It strengthens the country’s case in case they want to negotiate the extradition of that individual. Sources in Devas said the Interpol has not yet accepted India’s Red Notice application against Viswanathan in Lyon France in February. The international policing body has responded to the Indian government with additional questions regarding the request in March.
Reacting to the recent proceedings by the Indian government against Viswanathan, Devas Counsel, Matthew D McGill, said: “I believe that government of India’s actions against Viswanathan is a type of thuggish behaviour that we’re used to seeing from Russia, but not from the world’s largest democracy and amount to an intimidation campaign.”
Recently, the ED also sought permission from a special court to declare the US-based founder and CEO of the now liquidated start-up, Devas Multimedia, a fugitive economic offender. This is part of the proceedings initiated against Viswanathan in 2018 under sections 4, 10 and 12 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. This was in relation to Viswanathan not responding to court summons by the ED in relation to the PMLA case. The application stated that Viswanathan is in the US and is not cooperating with the criminal proceedings in India, and that despite service of summons, he has not appeared before the Court in Spl CC 477/2018 (the PMLA case).
The government has been pursuing this case against Viswanathan over the failed 2005 satellite deal between Devas Multimedia and ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix, which was ultimately dissolved by the government in 2008.
Devas shareholders were granted an arbitration award of $1.2 billion dollars against the Indian government as a result. Devas is currently pursuing this award against the government in multiple juridictions, seizing government assets worldwide.
Viswanathan is a serial entrepreneur in satellite space and currently resides in the States heading a new low earth orbit startup Omnispace, which aims to provide narrowband satellite services using 5G. Omnispace entered into a partnership with Tata-backed Nelco earlier this year, to disseminate these services in India.