India's finance minister puts pressure on UK over Mallya extradition

Vijay Mallya has been accused of routing a chunk of the $1.3 billion amount owed by his company Kingfisher Airlines in gaining 100 per cent or partial stakes in companies across the world. Photograph:( Reuters )

PTI London, United Kingdom Feb 26, 2017, 10.28 AM (IST)

India's finance minister attributed "liberal democracy" in the United Kingdom as a key reason for defaulters to stay in the country, in a veiled reference to liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is wanted by New Delhi for defaulting on loans.

Mallya, once known as the "king of good times", has been embroiled in a litany of financial scandals and money laundering since 2012. He owes banks roughly $1.3 billion but in March 2016, he decided to go and stay in the UK to "stay close to his family".

Speaking at a seminar in the London School of Economics' South Asia Centre, finance minister Arun Jaitley indirectly prodded the UK laws' liberal nature, saying: "Many thought that when you take loan from the banks, the money need not be re-paid and you can come to London and stay out here…and democracy is liberal enough to permit defaulters to stay here. That normal needs to be cracked."

The statement, which can be perceived a gentle rebuke or an attempt to put pressure on the UK government to extradite Mallya, comes just two days before he is set to meet UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson and UK chancellor Philip Hammond.

Though the content of their meeting remains unknown, senior officials in London have indicated that the matter of Mallya's extradition may be taken up during the meeting.

Earlier this month, the Indian government had formally sent an extradition request to the UK for them to try Mallya.

Mallya, the former chairman of India's largest spirits company in India, has also been accused of routing a chunk of the $1.3 billion amount owed by his company Kingfisher Airlines in gaining 100 per cent or partial stakes in companies across the world.

(WION with inputs from PTI)