Mallya extradition case: Legal noose around him begins to tighten

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 04, 2019, 11.25 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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A UK court had in December ordered fugitive billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya's extradition to India and the UK government has now approved the order. Mallya will now appeal to the UK High Court but he is running out of options. 

The UK government has approved Vijay Mallya's extradition to India. The order for his extradition was signed on Sunday by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid. 

"On February 3 the Secretary of State, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed the order for Vijay Mallya's extradition to India," a Home Office spokesperson said.

"Vijay Mallya is accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offences," the spokesperson added.

Mallya's extradition had been ordered on December 10, 2018 by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The home secretary then had two months to review the judgement. 

That deadline would have ended on February 10. 

Mallya is accused in India of fraud and money laundering. He had borrowed, for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, a total to Rs 9,000 crore. 

The money had been borrowed from a consortium of banks led by India's largest public-sector lender, the State Bank of India. Mallya is accused of siphoning off (part of) the money for personal and other uses. 

An extradition warrant against Mallya was executed by Scotland Yard in April 2017. 

While Mallya's legal team had argued in court that the default on the loans sought by the now-defunct airline were the result of business failure, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had claimed fraudulent intentions by the businessman in seeking and then dispersing those loans.

Judge Arbuthnot, Chief Magistrate at Westminster Magistrates' Court, in her ruling delivered on December 10 at the end of a year-long trial, concluded there was a case to answer in the Indian courts over substantial "misrepresentations" by the "flashy billionaire" of his financial dealings.

"There is clear evidence of dispersal and misapplication of the loan funds and I find a prima facie case the Dr Mallya was involved in a conspiracy to launder money," she had said.

The judgment had also dismissed the defence team's attempt to challenge the case on human rights grounds by claiming that Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where the businessman is to be detained following his extradition, did not meet minimum requirements. 

The UK court said it was satisfied with the various assurances provided by the Indian government, including a video of the jail cell, which had not only been recently redecorated but was also far larger than the minimum requirement threshold.

"I noted that he (Mallya) is taking a whole range of medications which the GoI (government of India) will ensure he has access to," the judge said.

Mallya now has 14 days to appeal against the Westminster Magistrates' Court's verdict. He has said he will. 

If the appeal is allowed, the case will proceed to the UK High Court. 

There is some limited recourse for the case to go on to a further level of the Supreme Court, but that is only possible if the High Court certifies that the appeal involves a point of law of general public importance, and either the High Court or the apex court gives leave for the appeal to be made. 

UK judge had been critical of Indian banks in Mallya extradition case

The UK judge who ordered Vijay Mallya's extradition was extremely critical of some of the procedures followed by Indian banks who "waved through" the loans to the former Kingfisher Airlines boss.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the 62-year-old businessman had a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering to answer and expressed her shock at the failure to obtain proper credit reports before certain loans were sanctioned by some of the Indian state-owned banks.

"There was a failure to ensure that the guarantees were formally taken when they should have been and a failure to investigate the representations that KFA (Kingfisher Airlines) made at various stages to obtain the loans," she said. 

The judge described these as "continuing failures" by banks and said it remained unclear from the evidence before her if these were by design and with a hidden financial motive.

"Or it is a case of a bank who were in the thrall of this glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy who charmed and cajoled these bankers into losing their common sense and persuading them to put their own rules and regulations to one side," she said, in one of her most critical statements in the judgment.

"If the criteria for lending to KFA had been applied, if the background checks had been carried out, the loans should not have been granted," she noted.

In an indication that some bank employees may have been involved in a wider conspiracy, the judge concluded she did find a prima facie case of a conspiracy to defraud which involves not just the KFA executives but also some bankers at IDBI who were named in the Indian government case.

"Conspiracies are very rarely proved with direct evidence and there is none in this case but there is evidence that the GOI (government of India) relies on from which it says the court can draw inferences that the bankers were involved in a conspiracy with KFA," the judgment noted. 

(With inputs from PTI)