Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who had absconded to London, will be extradited back to India, according to an order by British Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Javid signed the order eight weeks after Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot asked him to take a decision on whether or not Mallya should be extradited. Had Javid failed to decide, Mallya could have applied for discharge. Javid’s decision has come two years after India first requested the British High Commission for Mallya’s extradition.
A spokesperson for the Home Office told the Times of India, “On February 3, the Secretary of State, after carefully considering all relevant matters, signed the order for Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India. He is accused of conspiracy to defraud, of making false representations, and money laundering in India.”
Why is Mallya on the run?
The 62-year-old inherited United Breweries from his father, Vittal Mallya, and became the largest spirits maker in the country and tenth largest in the world in 1995. His company became known for Kingfisher beer, and he became infamous as a spendthrift. Raised in Kolkata, Mallya bought the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal football clubs. He was also famous for his luxury airline, Kingfisher Airlines, and related swimsuit calendar featuring India’s top models.
Kingfisher Airlines shut down in 2012 after a huge debt burden triggered a default on employees’ salaries. Mallya borrowed over Rs 9,000 crore for his airline. He is “now also being investigated for suspected diversion of funds and financial irregularities” related to these loans because they were “allegedly granted in violation of norms pertaining to credit limits”, reported Scroll.
In 2016, public sector banks moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal against Mallya for the Rs 9,000 crore he owed them and demanded his passport be confiscated. Scroll reported that the banks also asked for “an arrest warrant against Mallya and a security deposit to ensure his presence at the tribunal proceedings in Bengaluru”.
Mallya said he was willing to cooperate with any financial investigations against him. According to Scroll, Mallya said banks that had lent to him were “fully aware of Kingfisher’s financial position for the last four years”. This, he said, indicated that the banks “can’t pretend to be caught unawares now that the loans are proving irrecoverable”.
In 2010, Mallya became a Rajya Sabha MP with the help of Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP. In 2016, a few days after the banks approached the tribunal, he used his diplomatic passport to flee to London.
What are his legal options now?
In the next 14 days, Mallya can appeal for leave in the high court. If he does not, he must be extradited within 28 days of the order’s signing. Mallya told the Times of India that he will be making an appeal.
“The anticipated appeal process starts 14 days from now. I can appeal the Westminster magistrate’s order. I could not do so till the home secretary made a decision. After the court decision, I said I would appeal, and now, I can,” he said.
If the home secretary had not ordered extradition, the accused risked facing different charges. Mallya’s legal team is believed to have spent four weeks arguing this point. If his request for leave is rejected, he can apply for an oral hearing. If the court refuses that as well, the matter will end there and extradition proceedings will start.
History of extradition in the UK
Mallya is only a drop in the bucket of Indian fugitives. Besides him, Lalit Modi, accused of financial offences; Nadeem Saifi, suspect in a murder case; Tiger Hanif, suspect in the Gujarat blasts; and Ravi Shankaran, accused in the navy war room leak, are all on the run and based in the UK.
Livemint said fighting an extradition process could take months, even years. Like Mallya, Hanif had appealed to the home secretary in 2013 but is still waiting for a decision. However, authorities said Mallya’s casework was handled more seriously than that of others. Nonetheless, the UK has a history of providing asylum to those fleeing persecution in their home countries, whether political, religious or financial.
Government sources in India said, “We have taken note of the decision of the UK Home Secretary to sign on the order for Mallya’s extradition… While we welcome the UK government’s decision in the matter, we await the early completion of the legal process.”
Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius.