December 10, 2018
NEW DELHI/LONDON: Whether fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya will be extradited to India to face fraud investigations is likely to be decided by a court in the UK today. The 62-year-old is wanted for alleged fraud and defaulting on Rs. 9,000 crore in loans to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines. The flamboyant businessman left India in 2016 after a consortium of banks got together to start legal proceedings to recover the loans. He has been living in a mansion near London since.
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If the court orders Vijay Mallya’s extradition, he will have the option of going to a higher court. If the verdict goes against India, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate will have 14 days to file an appeal.
Vijay Mallya, out on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant last year, has through recent tweets offered to repay the loan. “Wherever I am physically, my appeal is ‘please take the money’. I want to stop the narrative that I stole money,” he tweeted last week.
“I did not borrow a single rupee. The borrower was Kingfisher Airlines. Money was lost due to a genuine and sad business failure. Being held as guarantor is not fraud,” he tweeted.
Vijay Mallya’s defence team has said in court that in early 2016, he had offered to pay back nearly 80 per cent of the principal loan amount owed to the banks.
The tycoon also released a letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, in which he asked that a committee be appointed to “examine the facts”. He said he also wrote to the finance minister, but received no reply from either.
Vijay Mallya has also argued against his extradition, saying Indian jails do not have proper air and light. India had to submit a video of Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail, where he is to be lodged, after judge Emma Arbuthnot asked for it.
In a sharp retort, PM Modi told his British counterpart Theresa May that it was not right for courts in her country to ask about the condition of Indian jails, “as we still have the prisons where (the British) jailed our leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.”
In September, the tycoon — who was also a member of the Rajya Sabha before he skipped the country — created a political storm claiming that he had a “meeting” with the finance minister. As Mr Jaitley denied there was any meeting, Vijay Mallya backtracked, accusing the media of misrepresenting facts.
Last month, a court in the UK asked him to pay a hefty 88,000 pounds after Swiss bank UBS sought to repossess his London house for the non-payment of a 20.4-million pounds mortgage loan.
After Vijay Mallya, a number of wanted tycoons — including celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi — have fled the country; the opposition Congress has accused the government of aiding and abetting these fugitives.