The United Kingdom government has informed India that fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya cannot be extradited until a “confidential legal issue” related to him is resolved, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday, reported The Hindu.

On two earlier occasions in October and November too, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court about the pending proceedings in UK. During Monday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted a letter from the foreign ministry, elaborating the British government’s communication on the matter, according to PTI.

The letter quoted the British government saying there was a “further legal issue” to be resolved before Mallya could be extradited, The Hindu reported. However, the UK government refused to provide details of the proceedings or disclose how long it would take to resolve the matter.

The UK has, however, assured that it was “seeking to deal with the issue as quickly as possible”, according to the letter from the foreign ministry. Mehta also said that the Ministry of External Affairs was trying its best, but Mallya’s status remained the same at this point, PTI reported.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit and Ashok Bhushan were hearing a contempt case in which Mallya was held guilty. On August 31, 2020, the Supreme Court had directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure the presence of Mallya to appear before it on October 5, last year. It had also dismissed Mallya’s plea seeking a review of the 2017 verdict that held him guilty of contempt for transferring $40 million to his children in violation of court orders.

However, on October 5, the Centre had said it was not aware of the secret ongoing proceedings against Mallya in the UK as the government of India was not a party to the process. Then in November, the Centre reiterated that the extradition was held up due to “a confidential legal issue”. The court had then asked the Centre to file a status report on the matter. On Monday, the court posted the next hearing for the contempt case on March 15, after Mehta sought some time to file another report on the status of Mallya’s extradition.

The liquor baron, who is fighting his extradition to India, faces fraud and money laundering charges in a bank loan default case of over Rs 9,000 crore resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines.

In February 2017, India had submitted an extradition request to the United Kingdom after Mallya made it clear he would not return. In July 2019, the United Kingdom High Court allowed him to challenge his extradition order.

Mallya has repeatedly denied the charges against him and offered to pay back 100% of the amount borrowed by Kingfisher Airlines, but neither the banks nor the Enforcement Directorate has been willing to accept the offer. He also claimed that the allegations against him were related to borrowing only Rs 900 crore.