UK clears Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India; liquor baron says will appeal soon

New Delhi: In a massive success for Indian investigating agencies, UK Home Secretary on Monday cleared the decks for extradition of the embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

“On 3 February the Secretary of State, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed the order for Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India,” said a UK Home Office spokesperson. He now has 14 days to appeal to the UK High Court.

Taking note of the UK Home Secretary’s order sanctioning his extradition, Mallya tweeted, “After the decision was handed down on December 10, 2018 by the Westminster Magistrates Court, I stated my intention to appeal. I could not initiate the appeal process before a decision by the Home Secretary. Now I will initiate the appeal process.”

Mallya left India on March 2, 2016 after defaulting on loan amounting to Rs 9,000 crore he had taken for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Soon after the news broke, Arun Jaitley, who is currently undergoing treatment in US, said it was another step to get Mallya home. He further contrasted the situation with the one playing out in Bengal, where CM Mamata Banerjee is sitting on dharna against the CBI for questioning the Kolkata Police commissioner in the Saradha chit fund scam.

“Modi Government clears one more step to get Mallya extradited while Opposition rallies around the Saradha Scamsters,” Jaitley tweeted.

“We have taken note of the decision of the UK Home Secretary to sign on the order for Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India. While we welcome the UK Government’s decision in the matter, we await the early completion of the legal process for his extradition,” said a source in Indian intelligentsia.

On Friday, Vijay Mallya claimed his group’s properties worth over Rs 13,000 crore have been attached, more than the ‘claimed’ Rs 9,000 crore that he “ran away with” asking where is justice and how far will it go.

Mallya also claimed that the banks to which he owes money “have given an open licence to their Lawyers in England to pursue multiple frivolous litigations against” him questioning the “brazen” spending of “public money on legal fees”.

In December 2018, Westminster Magistrates’ Court Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had ruled in favour of extradition of Mallya.

Rejecting Mallya’s attempts to show Indian prisons in a bad light, the court said there was “no ground at all” to believe he faces any risk in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail which has been recently “redecorated”.

The liquor baron had contested his extradition on the grounds that the case against him is “politically motivated” and the loans he has been accused of defrauding on were sought to keep his now-defunct airline afloat. “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 said in a Twitter post on the issue. “I have offered to repay 100 per cent of the principal amount to them. Please take it,” he said in another post.

Judge Arbuthnot was equally critical of the Indian banks for not using “common sense” when such loans were sanctioned.

“It is either a case that the various continuing failures were by design and with a motive (possibly financial), which is not clear from the evidence that has been put in front of me, 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 noted. She said Mallya was not above using “round robin” methods to use the funds acquired for purposes other than specified to the banks.

At a BJP rally in January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Any person who has cheated or looted the country shall be brought to justice. This is regardless of whether he is in India or abroad.”