If extradited, good times may get over for Mallya

Though Vijay Mallya is a step closer to being shipped back home, the Indian government needs to do all that is needed to help its cause when the tycoon-turned-fugitive approaches judiciary in London

It is poetic justice as liquor baron Vijay Mallya is one step closer to being shipped back to India. British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed the order for his extradition giving him two weeks to lodge an appeal. And already he showed his intention to appeal with a tweet on February 5, 2019, which read, “After the decision was handed down by the Westminster Court, I stated my intention to appeal. I could not initiate the appeal process before a decision by the Home Secretary. Now I will initiate the appeal process”.

Notwithstanding the fate of his appeal, the government is closer to bring back him back. And Mallya’s extradition would offer a huge win to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the eve of the general election by May 2019. In December, ahead of the court ruling on the extradition order, Mallya had offered to pay back the entire principal amount of the loans that he owes several banks. He had tweeted that he would repay “100 per cent of the principal amount to the banks. The “King of Good Times”, Mallya had left India in March 2016 with debts of more than 9,000 crores hanging over his head from his shuttered carrier Kingfisher Airlines.

The Enforcement Directorate also said on February 5, 2019 that extraditing fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya to India from the UK, for multicrore loan recovery cases by several banks, would pave way for a speedy trial in the country. The ED said if the 63-year-old businessman is brought back, he will be lodged at Arthur Road Jail where a barrack has been readied.

The ED wants Mallya’s presence to ascertain the full particulars of his assets and complete disclosure about the financial trail. The ED wants him to disclose the relevant facts pertaining to receipt and disbursement of loans to Kingfisher Airlines Limited (KFA) along with other financial transactions. “This will set a right example and other economic offenders would desist from leaving the country.”

Commenting on Mallya’s intentions to appeal, ED would defend. “If the appeal is admitted, we will defend. We will apprise the court about the Fugitive Economic Offender tag,” said an officer of ED. It is a major setback to fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya. On December 10, 2018, a UK court ruled Mallya guilty and ordered his deportation to India. Now, the UK Home Office has upheld the lower court ruling.

A UK Home Office statement said that “On February 3, the Secretary of State, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed the order for Vijay Mallya’s extradition to India. Mallya is accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offenses.”

The development comes at a time when the government faces the Opposition’s wrath following the CBI raids in Kolkata against the city’s police commissioner. Taking a jibe at political opponents, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The Modi government clears one more step to get Mallya extradited.”

Official sources had earlier said what helped push India’s case was PM Narendra Modi taking up the issue personally with his counterpart Theresa May. In a related development, the Enforcement Directorate has told a special court that it had no objection to the restoration of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya’s properties to a consortium of banks, but the banks should give the undertaking to return the amount claimed by them to the court in the future.

The central probe agency submitted its affidavit in response to an application filed by the consortium of banks, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), seeking restoration of properties of Mallya, who is accused of defaulting on loans worth over 9,000 crore. According to the consortium, the amount claimed by the banks was around 6,200 crore.

In its affidavit filed before special PMLA judge MS Azmi, the ED said it had left the matter to the best judgment of the court to grant the prayer made by the applicant (a consortium of banks). “However, in case the court deems it fit to allow the application, it shall take an undertaking from them (consortium of banks) to return the said amount with interest, in case the court at any point deems ‘fit and appropriate’ in the ‘interest of justice’ to deposit the amount before it or to the complainant without delay,” the affidavit said.

The agency further said that since all the applicants, except one, were public banks, the money sought to be recovered was public money, restoration of assets in their favour was in public interest.“In light of these facts and circumstances, it is prayed that the court may graciously be pleased to allow the instant application in the interest of justice and/or pass any such order that it deems fit in the interest of justice,” the ED submitted.

Earlier Mallya (63) last month became the first businessman to be declared as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, which came into existence in August, 2018. A special court in Mumbai had declared absconding liquor baron
Vijay Mallya a fugitive economic offender on a plea of the Enforcement Directorate. With this, Mallya has become the first businessman to be declared EFO under the provisions of the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Act which came into existence in August last year.

The ED had requested the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court that Mallya, who is currently in the UK, be declared a fugitive and his properties be confiscated of about
12,500 crore worth of assets.  It is a second major setback for erstwhile liquor baron. This means now the government can initiate to confiscate his properties in alleged 9,000 crore loan default case. The Special Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) judge MS Azmi in his oral order declared Mallya, a fugitive economic offender under Section 12 of the act, on a plea of Enforcement Directorate (ED).

“Section 17 of the FEO act provides from the challenge of the proclamation in the High Court within 30 days and I am very sure that Mallaya’s lawyers will want to explore the option,” said Zulfiqar Memon, managing partner of law firm MZM Legal. “More than anything, this order could mean that his properties can now be confiscated and sold by the Government, which may be most detrimental to Mallaya.”

In July 2018, the ED had filed an application before the court, seeking to declare Mallya a ‘fugitive economic offender’ under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 and had also sought to immediately confiscate his assets of over 12,500 crores.