London: Beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya was granted bail till December 2017 by the Westminster Magistrates Court in the extradition case against him. The hearing in the case has been adjourned until July 6.
"There was no loan diverted anywhere," he said while exiting the court after he received bail. "I am delighted that I can put my case forward before a fair and impartial court," he added. Mallya arrived at the court at around 1130 (GST) and briefly spoke to the media. He was accompanied by his son Siddharth Mallya.
"I have nothing to say, The court proceedings are on. I have denied all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them. I have enough evidence to prove that I am not guilty," Mallya said, speaking to the media as he entered the court. "I have not alluded any court. It is my lawful duty to be here, therefore I am here."
Mallya went into consultation room with his lawyer, where he said that he did not like the fact that he was called a 'chor' (thief). However, when speaking to the media later he dismissed this happened.
"I certainly was not called a thief. Two people in a drunken state were yelling, There were several others who came and wished me well," shot back Mallya when asked about the episode. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will be arguing on behalf of the Indian Government to prove him guilty of the money laundering charges,Mallya, 61, was arrested by the Scotland Yard in London on April 18 in relation to an extradition warrant, after India had briefed UK officials about the case, and forwarding a request to launch formal deportation proceedings.
He attended a central London police station for his arrest and was released on conditional bail a few hours later after providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds, assuring the court of abiding by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, such as the surrender of his passport and a ban on him possessing any travel documents.
While the “preliminary hearing” in the case has been conducted, the extradition hearing is a significant step towards the absconder’s extradition.
The former “king of good times” left India last year in March and has not returned to the country henceforth, despite being summoned several times by judicial authorities. He has been charged with money laundering and other financial offences.
Vijay Mallya owes over Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks and has been living in Britain since March 2016 after fleeing from India. The banks have not even been able to recover half the amount he had taken as loans, even after selling off some of his prime properties.
The Centre, including prominent leaders ranging like Arun Jaitley have promised that Mallya would be brought back to India and justice will be served sooner or later ,However, Mallya has always upheld his statement that he was being framed, saying it was government propaganda against him as he was being made a ‘poster boy’ of loan defaulters in India.
A separate TIMES NOW investigation has disclosed the number of hidden assets Mallya has accumulated by diverting the money of the Indian tax payers.The ED, too, has stated that Mallya was always intending to defraud the country’s money and flee with the amount.
While on one hand Vijay Mallya told the Supreme Court that he has ‘no money to refund’ the Rs 9,000 crore loan, TIMES NOW has accessed the 21-page file handed over to the English Crown Prosecution Service (ECPS) that reveals that he is sitting on assets worth thousands of crores that can easily be diluted to pay back the loan.
Numerous attempts have been made by authorities to auction his properties in India including the Kingfisher Villa in Goa and Kingfisher House in Mumbai but buyers still seem reluctant despite prices being lowered.
The businessman, who is now reportedly in London, has hit out at the Indian government and media several times, pointing out that he was being targeted unnecessarily.
Extradition won’t be easy
While Mallya was given strict instructions from the court to not leave his address, many senior officials and sources privy of the episode clearly said the arrest was just the beginning of the extradition process and it may take a while before the former ‘king of good times’ can be brought back to India.
In fact, several advocates have also said that the preliminary arrest is just a baby step towards Mallya’s extradition as Britain’s courts follow a different set of rules and regulations. India will have to furnish, with diligence, every fact in the case to prove its case in the British court of law.
While he is wanted in multiple cases like cheque dishonor, loan default, and fund diversion, it will require a long process to bring him back to India, albeit Britain accepting India’s request to start his extradition process.
One of the main reasons why India would have to shed a lot of sweat to deport Mallya is the fact that it falls under the second category of countries, where extradition processes are usually strenuous as compared to category one countries.
India would not only need robust evidence against the liquor baron but also need to prove all the criminal charges against him from scratch.Though the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached a number of his properties, including the Kingfisher Villa that was auctioned recently, it has failed to recover the entire amount that Mallya owes to the banks. In another case of defaulting, Mallya also took Rs 900 crore as loan from IDBI Bank, and a hefty amount of it was used for personal use.
Both the ED and CBI officials seemed confident about his extradition as they have the required documents proving Mallya’s guilt.
So if India has every document proving Mallya’s guilt, why would the process take time? As per the British Crown Prosecution Service, extradition can be allowed in specific circumstances – prosecution of a criminal, sentencing of convict and execution of the imposed sentence.
However, the problem here is the fact the UK courts will not recognise all the offences that are applicable to him in India. This, along with India’s category 2 status makes the process not only grueling but also raises some serious doubts over the success of his extradition. In case, the extradition request comes from a category 2 country, it is directly overseen by theSecretary of State of the Home Department.
The Secretary is likely to draw advice from the Home Office’s International Criminality Unit as well.After the request is approved, the buck will then be passed to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where all the arguments in the case will be produced, based on the documents provided by the Indian officials.
Upon receiving all the documents in the case, the judge will then decide whether the arrest warrant should be issued or not and he also decided if the offence is big enough for deportation to the concerned country.
But as mentioned earlier, the judge will only pass the judgment in India’s favour if his offences are a crime in the UK. While money laundering and defaulting are an offence in the UK, India should take utmost care not to politicise the issue, as this will give Mallya a ‘free window’ to escape on the pretext of political campaign against him.
Mallya arrest on Tuesday was only due to India’s request but the actual extradition process will happen after all charges against the former KFA owner is proved.
After the initial arrest – where Mallya was probably apprised of the charges against him - by the court judge, another date will also be assigned for the extradition hearing.In two months’ time, the UK court will begin Mallya’s formal extradition hearing and only then India can present the documents for his extradition.
However, it does not end there; the court judge will then check a number of factors to see whether the documentation received from the Secretary of State’s office is in consonance with the Extradition Act.
If the request does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights and manages to pass all the other hurdles, only then can Mallya be legally extradited to India.However, even after getting the approval for extradition, it will take almost two months to bring him back. But there is a catch: Mallya has the provision to appeal against the approval of the deportation request under the Extradition Act.
His appeal can be forwarded to the UK Supreme Court as well, but only after due approval from the High Court.
The extradition can also be rejected in cases when a request is based on the account of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and political opinions. Among others, if a long period has passed since the offence or if the offender is too old, the extradition can be rejected as well.
Taking all the aforementioned factors into consideration, it can be concluded that the extradition process of the beleaguered businessman will take a good period of time.