The UK High Court on Wednesday said that businessman Vijay Mallya can be regarded as a “fugitive from justice”. Mallya is accused of willfully defaulting on about $1.4 billion (Rs 9,380 crore) in loans for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“Taking account of the fact that Mallya is contesting the alleged grounds for extradition, there are grounds for regarding Mallya as a fugitive from justice,” Judge Andrew Henshaw said as part of his ruling, PTI reported. The judge also upheld the order of an Indian court and allowed banks worldwide to freeze Mallya’s accounts.
Mallya’s lawyers argued that he has been a non-resident Indian since 1988 and has lived in England since 1992. The court, however, said, “The evidence indicates that prior to March 2016, Mallya travelled fairly regularly between India and England for business and political reasons. Most of his business interests were in or closely connected with India, most notably United Breweries Group and Kingfisher Airlines…Whilst Mallya has indefinite leave to stay in the UK, he is said to be a non-resident taxpayer.”
The law firm that represented Indian banks in the case described the ruling as significant.
The ruling came a day after Mallya lost a lawsuit filed in the United Kingdom by 13 Indian banks seeking to collect more than $1.55 billion (Rs 10,385 crore) from him amid allegations that he committed massive fraud. The 62-year-old businessman is fighting a number of lawsuits in the UK and India related to fraud and money-laundering allegations. He is also fighting the Central Bureau of Investigation’s attempts to extradite him from the UK. On April 27, the Westminster court hearing that case most of the evidence the CBI had submitted against Mallya.
The businessman, who has been in the United Kingdom since March 2016, has said he would not return to the country. India’s Ministry of External Affairs submitted an extradition request to the United Kingdom in February 2017 after Mallya made his self-imposed exile clear. The request was made on the basis of an extradition treaty signed between the countries in 1992.