By Suzi Ring and Franz Wild
A lawyer for Indian prosecutors rejected the “grandiose narrative” that Vijay Mallya is the victim of a government conspiracy and urged a London court to extradite the Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. founder on a host of fraud and money laundering charges.
Mark Summers, a lawyer for Indian prosecutors, said that Mallya must return to his home country to face trial for allegedly defaulting on a series of loans from India’s state-owned IDBI bank for his failing airline that were obtained under false pretenses.
“The court is invited to disregard the defendant’s grandiose narrative,” Summers said in arguments submitted to the court at the start of an two-week extradition hearing Monday. “Pruned of rhetoric and hyperbole, there is, despite the obviously high-profile nature of this case in India, nothing strange or remarkable about the government’s intention to prosecute.”
Mallya, who is free on 650,000-pound ($879,000) bail, was arrested in London in April after a consortium of 17 banks accused him of willfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) in debt accumulated by Kingfisher Airlines — which he founded in 2005 and shut down seven years later.
The 61-year-old Mallya, wearing a navy pin-striped suit with his trademark long, gray hair, told reporters during an unexpected court evacuation before the hearing Monday that “the allegations are baseless, unfounded.”
Mallya, dubbed the “king of good times,” left India a year ago for England to be closer to his children. He’s since refused to return, claiming he fears an unfair trial and that government agencies are pursuing a biased investigation. He is fighting extradition on that basis as well as citing human-rights issues around prison conditions in India.
“At the heart of this request lies a flawed criminal case,” Mallya’s lawyers said in court documents. The allegations are driven “by politicians of every stripe, all of whom stand only to gain from the demonization of KFA’s former senior executives, the bankers who lent to it, and — crucially — the man who is now presented as the embodiment of all the ills of capitalism in contemporary India, Dr. Mallya.”
After taking over a beer-and-liquor empire from his father in the 1980s, Mallya built Kingfisher Airlines into one of India’s leading carriers until it was grounded amid mounting debt in 2012. He has gradually ceded control of his beverage businesses to rivals in recent years.
One of those rivals, Diageo Plc, filed a suit against him last month to recover a $40 million payment made when he was ousted from United Spirits Ltd. after Diageo purchased a controlling stake. It’s also seeking about $141 million over questionable payments made by companies affiliated with Mallya.
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