Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya appealed in Britain’s High Court on Thursday against his extradition to India to face fraud and money laundering charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines, PTI reported. The businessman fled India and moved to London in March 2016. Mallya owes Indian banks more than Rs 9,000 crore.
Crown Prosecution Service lawyer appearing for India, Mark Summers, highlighted “overwhelming evidence of dishonesty” on Mallya’s part. “There is enough in the 32,000 pages of overall evidence to fulfil the [extradition] treaty obligations that there is a case to answer,” Summers told the court.
Mallya’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, said that the 2018 extradition ruling by Judge Emma Arbuthnot had “multiple errors” because she did not take into account all the evidence about the financial status of Kingfisher Airlines. Arbuthnot had rejected Mallya’s argument that the case was motivated by political considerations, that he would not receive a fair trial in India and that extradition would infringe his human rights.
She revisited a series of bank statements and balance sheets provided to Indian banks to seek loans as proof of full disclosure. Montgomery argued that there had been no misrepresentation or fraud on the part of her client and that Kingfisher Airlines was the victim of economic misfortune. “The airline industry is littered with examples of struggling airlines being supported for strategic reasons,” she added.
“There is not just a prima facie case but overwhelming evidence of dishonesty,” Summers countered her. “Given the volume and depth of evidence the District Judge [Arbuthnot] had before her, the judgment is comprehensive and detailed with the odd error but nothing that impacts the prima facie case.”
Summers also said Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines submitted “absolute and outrageous lies” about projections of profitability and loss while applying to IDBI and SBI banks for loans in 2009, according to Hindustan Times. “Profitability of the company was knowingly fudged [in loan applications], wildly untrue and patently dishonest claims were made on projections of the company’s profits and loss,” he said. “Promises of equity to be infused were liberally made that never came. A honest person would have presented accurate picture to banks.”
Mallya, who denies the charges against him and is currently on bail, sat with the public in the courtroom to watch the appeal.
Justices Stephen Irwin and Elisabeth Laing, the two-member bench hearing the appeal, said the verdict will not be given immediately.
Meanwhile, outside the court, Mallya again asked Indian banks to take back 100% of the principal amount he owed to them. “The ED attached the assets on the complaint by the banks that I was not paying them,” he told reporters. “I have not committed any offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that the ED should suo moto attach my assets. I am saying, please, banks, take your money. The ED is saying no, we have a claim over these assets. So, the ED on the one side and the banks on the other are fighting over the same assets.”