Vijay Mallya begins extradition appeal process at UK High Court


London: Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya was back in a British courtroom on Tuesday (local time) as he began what is set to be a lengthy appeals process against an order to extradite him to India to face multiple charges relating to the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines. 

The 64-year-old businessman was accompanied by his wife Pinky Lalwani and his legal team – led by Clare Montgomery QC – at the High Court in London to present arguments to a two-judge panel.

It follows a ruling by a lower court – the Westminster Magistrate’s Court – in December 2018 – that Mallya be sent to India to face the charges, including one of money laundering to the tune of Rs 9000 crores.

In her opening statement, Montgomery declared that it was a “very dense case” involving multiple individuals and organizations and that not everything had been taken into account by the magistrate Emma Arbuthnot in her ruling against Mallya.

Montgomery contended that the magistrate’s ruling had been riddled with “multiple errors”. She also brought into question the admissibility of documents submitted by the Indian government – including witness statements and emails that proved crucial in the ruling by judge Arbuthnot, who found “clear evidence of misapplication of loan funds” and that there was a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya.

As she had done throughout the trial, Montgomery continued to assert that Mallya had not acted in a fraudulent manner or run a pyramid and that the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines was, in fact, the failure of a business in difficult economic circumstances.

She also reiterated concerns about the conduct of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in bringing charges against Mallya, claiming that the tycoon had been made a scapegoat.

Montgomery also stated that the Indian government had presented the loan taken out by Kingfisher Airlines not as a simple business loan but was part of a larger and elaborate attempt at defrauding the banks by Mallya and Kingfisher Airlines management.

This, Montgomery contended, was but one example of a wider misinterpretation of the case by judge Arbuthnot.

The High Court justices reprimanded Montgomery for concentrating on the evidence – in essence rehashing the case presented at the lower court – rather than the apparent “mistakes” made by judge Arbuthnot in her ruling.

Mallya remains on bail of £650,000 as he has done throughout this legal process.

The Crown Prosecution Service which is representing the government of India will present its case for the extradition of Mallya on Wednesday. (ANI)