London: Fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya can be extradited to India to face fraud investigations, a court in the UK ruled today. Vijay Mallya is wanted in India for defaulting on Rs. 9,000 crore in loans to his failed Kingfisher Airlines. There was no sign of a false case being mounted against him, UK judge Emma Arbuthnot said. Calling it a great day for India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: “No one who cheats India will go scot-free.”
Vijay Mallya, 62, told reporters that he was exploring his legal options. “My legal team will review the judgement and follow legal procedures, I don’t want to speculate anything,” he said.
Vijay Mallya, out on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant last year, has 14 days to appeal. Should he choose to go to the Court of Appeal, it could take months for the case to be heard. If this goes against him, he can apply for the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. It is not uncommon for a court of appeal to overturn the verdict of a lower court.
In a 74-page judgement that describes Vijay Mallya as a “bejeweled, billionaire playboy” at one point, the judge shot down the tycoon’s argument that he was at risk in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail as it lacked proper air or light.
There was “no ground at all to believe that” he faced any risk in the jail or there was any human rights violation, which has recently been “redecorated”, said the UK court. “He will have access to personal medical care to manage his diabetes and coronary problems,” the judge ruled.
The judge said the CBI and in particular its senior official, Rakesh Asthana (special director), was criticised by Mr Mallya’s lawyers. “As will be seen later, I found no evidence that the prosecution was corrupt or politically led,” said judge Emma Arbuthnot.
If the extradition takes place, Vijay Mallya will be kept in one of the high security barracks located in a two-storey building inside the Mumbai prison complex that also housed 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, Press Trust of India quoted a prison official as saying.
Vijay Mallya had in recent tweets offered to repay 100 per cent of the principal amount he owes banks in India, saying: “Please take the money”. Earlier today, he said if his offer was accepted, Kingfisher employees should be paid first. The flamboyant businessman with interests ranging from liquor to aviation, left India in 2016 as a group of banks started legal proceedings to recover the loans.
A former Rajya Sabha member, owner of an IPL cricket team and Force India formula one team, Vijay Mallya was dubbed “king of good times”. Much of his wealth, including his villas, yachts and planes, have been auctioned off on court orders over recent months.