Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya loses appeal against extradition in UK High Court
Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya on Monday lost his appeal in the UK High Court against the 2018 order to extradite him to India to face charges of financial irregularities.
Mallya, 64, is wanted in India to face charges of financial offences amounting to Rs 9,000 crore borrowed by his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) from several Indian banks.
The case will now go to home secretary Priti Patel for a final decision on his extradition.
Justices Irwin and Elisabeth Laing handed down their verdict by email.
The flamboyant businessman was ordered to be extradited to India back in December 2018 on a request from the Indian government that has accused him of “knowingly misrepresenting” the profitability of his companies when he sought bank loans in 2009.
In their 46-page judgement, Justice Irwin and Justice Laing said: “(In) our judgment, the SDJ (senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot) was entitled to find that there was a prima facie case of fraud by false representation…(We) reject the submission that the SDJ was wrong to find a prima facie case of conspiracy to defraud”.
The judges rejected the six grounds on which Mallya’s lawyer, Claire Montgomery, had appealed, and upheld Arbuthnot’s judgement.
The judges said: “It is clear beyond any doubt that the SDJ directed herself properly. It is clear she had the criminal burden and standard in mind when she considered whether there was a prima facie case”.
“The role of an extradition court considering this question is to consider whether a tribunal of fact, properly directed, could reasonably and properly convict on the basis of the evidence. The extradition court is, emphatically, not required itself to be sure of guilt in order to send the case to the Home Secretary”.
“The extradition court must conclude that a tribunal of fact, properly directed and considering all the relevant evidence, could reasonably be sure of guilt. There is no basis upon which it could be said the SDJ misunderstood this, or that she misdirected herself”, they added.
India’s case for his extradition rests on, what had been described in court proceedings by the prosecution as, the “three chapters of dishonesty”: misrepresentations to various banks to acquire loans, the misuse of the loans and his conduct after the banks recalled the loans.
The Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf of the Indian government, argued that there was at least a case that Mallya had to answer back home and a reasonable jury could conclude that the businessman and his company indulged in conspiracy, fraud, and used loans for unintended purposes, including part of the loans going to his motor racing team.
Mark Summers, CPS lawyer, reminded Justice Irwin and Justice Elisabeth Laing of the high court of England and Wales that in extradition cases, British courts are solely required to establish whether the person requested has a prima facie case to answer, not to establish the truth.
To that extent, he argued, the magistrates court had taken into account all relevant evidence and had ruled that Mallya had a prima facie case to answer and that he needed to be extradited to India to face trial.
Mallya’s lawyer Claire Montgomery, on the other hand, has insisted that Mallya’s inability to repay bank loans was due to a genuine business failure and the result of wider challenges facing the aviation industry at the time.
Mallya has, on numerous occasions, alleged that he was prepared to repay the loans. “I have made repeated offers to pay 100% of the amount borrowed by KFA to the Banks… Neither are Banks willing to take money and neither is the ED willing to release their attachments which they did at the behest of the Banks. I wish the FM would listen in this time of crisis,” he tweeted on March 31.
In New Delhi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBII) and ED, which have been pursuing the case against Mallya, welcomed the verdict.
“It is a significant achievement in continuing a war against economic fugitives who have been managing to stay away from the judicial process in the country. It also validates the painstaking and meticulous investigation done by the CBI,” CBI spokesperson RK Gaur said..