Loans: Vijay Mallya is fighting extradition from the UK to India
BELEAGUERED Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya was arrested in London following an extradition request from India where he is accused of fraud, British police said today (18).
The flamboyant financier, who co-owns Indian Formula One team Force One, appeared in a London court on Tuesday and was granted bail.
Mallya secretly fled India in March 2016 owing more than $1 billion after defaulting on loan payments to state-owned banks and allegedly misusing the funds.
India submitted an extradition request to Britain in early February after investigators demanded the 61-year-old be brought home to face charges.
India’s junior finance minister Santosh Gangwar said the government would do everything in its power to bring Mallya to justice.
“We will not spare anyone who is within the ambit of law. Criminals will not be spared,” Gangwar told reporters in New Delhi after the arrest.
“We will definitely work to bring him back to the country.”
But the business baron played down the arrest.
“Usual Indian media hype. Extradition hearing in court started today as expected,” he posted on his official Twitter account on Tuesday.
Mallya has repeatedly dismissed the charges against him and defended himself in messages from his personal Twitter account. On January 28 he said that “not one rupee was misused”.
Known for his lavish lifestyle, Mallya made Kingfisher beer a global brand and ran a now-defunct airline with the same name.
He was once the owner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore and still owns the Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League.
In February the Indian government said it was considering new measures to seize the assets of “big time offenders” who fled abroad.
That same month Mallya was sacked from the board of United Breweries, the firm through which he once controlled his business empire.
India’s capital markets regulator has also barred Mallya from participating in the securities market for having allegedly diverted funds from whiskey maker United Spirits.
Mallya’s financial dealings are being investigated by the federal Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency.
A Indian court in January ordered a consortium of banks to start the process of recovering loans from the tycoon.
Indian television channel CNN News18 said that a team of Indian law enforcement officials would visit London to begin work on his extradition.
India and Britain have a mixed record on extradition, say legal experts. Some cases have collapsed when evidence against the defendant fell short of the standard of “dual criminality”, or actions that amount to a crime in both countries.
“The court usually focuses on whether there is sufficient criminality to extradite someone,” said Andrew Smith, a partner at London law firm Corker Binning. “India needs to show a prima facie evidential case against this man.”
The criminal case against Mallya was only filed this year. If his legal team argues persuasively that the charges were filed as an act of revenge, that might sway the court in his favour, legal experts say.
Mallya has a base in London as well as a country home bought from the father of triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.