After two arrests, fugitive businessmen Vijay Mallya can no longer take the Indian government or even the UK courts lightly, even though the lawyers fighting his case in a London court have put down his arrests to procedural issues.
Mallya, a former liquor baron, has now been arrested twice in over the past six months in London, something courts here could not do when he was still based out of India.
When Scotland Yard first arrested Mallya in April, he had to shell out as much as £650,000 to get bail. He was also directed to stay in London till the trial gets completed. The latest arrest, on Tuesday, was based on the evidence filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) before the Westminster Magistrate’s Court. According to one of the ED lawyers, the evidence is good enough to get Mallya extradited, though it is up to to the court to take a decision on that. He also said the arrest will not lead to expedition of Mallya’s trial.
But the latest arrest suggests that the ED has drummed up enough evidence against Mallya to clearly indicate that there was a prima facie case against him for his immediate arrest. The entire case revolves around the ₹1,000-crore loan given by the IDBI Bank for the operations of Kingfisher Airlines, which Indian investigating agencies claim was laundered to buy assets abroad. The ED has now said it has topped up the evidence with more facts, and as per its latest revelations, most of the ₹6,000 crore given as loans, too, was laundered.What does this mean?
First and foremost, the Indian government is quite serious about his extradition, and is going all out to to collect watertight evidence against him. It has also put a bit of psychological pressure on Mallya, as evidence after evidence — first from the CBI and now from the ED — are being mounted against the businessman. The ED lawyer has been quoted as saying that now there is a dual criminality case against Mallya, which is quite serious.
The money-laundering case could actually be the clincher as the UK courts take it very seriously. There is a conventional treaty between the two countries as money laundering is counted as an offence in the UK. Also, this is perhaps the first case of extradition, with several others pending in UK courts, and India is very keen on getting the accused back to the country. It has followed up and complied with all the procedures required to provide enough evidence against the accused.
Even though Mallya has been publicly trashing claims that he laundered the loans given out by several banks, especially IDBI Bank, by diverting the funds for his personal use, his lawyers will need to do much more than that. They will need to provide enough documentary evidence that the loans were used only for the airline’s operation. Mallya apparently has a team of six experts to back his claim and provide evidence on his behalf during the court hearing.
However, whether he will finally be extradited is still a matter of conjecture. The extradition trial will be held for two weeks, starting December 4, and might spill over to January, if necessary.