LONDON A UK court on Monday ordered Vijay Mallya’s extradition and said there were substantial “misrepresentations” in flamboyant billionaire’s characterisations of his financial dealings, in a major boost to India’s efforts to bring back the fugitive wanted for alleged bank fraud amounting to an estimated Rs 9,000 crores.
Delivering the verdict, Westminster Magistrates’ Court Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot said there was a prima facie case against Mallya and his human rights would not be infringed if he was extradited to India.
The judge’s key word during the verdict was “misrepresentation”.
She said 62-year-old Mallya misrepresented the state of the company and was not above using “round robin” methods to use the funds acquired for purposes other than specified to the banks.
She said loans were obtained based on false documents and that banks had been fooled by ostensibly billionaire’s flamboyant personality.
The judge also said that there was “no sign of a false case being mounted against him”.
“Having considered evidence as a whole. There is a case to answer,” Judge Arbuthnot said.
She referred the extradition case to Home Secretary of State Sajid Javid, who must also approve it.
“I am sending Mallya’s case to the Home Secretary of State for a decision to be taken on whether to order his extradition,” she said, referring to the Pakistani-origin top British official.
The former Kingfisher Airlines boss has been on bail since his arrest in April last year. Mallya remains on same bail conditions as before while the extradition order is signed off on by the Home Secretary. He, meanwhile, has time to appeal the decision in the UK High Court.
In case Mallya’s team does not file an appeal, and Secretary of State agrees with the magistrate’s decision, then he must be extradited from the UK within 28 days of the Home Secretary’s extradition order.
In New Delhi, CBI spokesperson welcomed the verdict.
“We welcome the decision. We hope to bring him soon and conclude the case. The CBI has its own inherent strengths. We worked hard on this case. We are strong on law and facts and we were confident while perusing the extradition process,” the spokesperson said.
The judge was extremely critical of how loans were granted and then used.
“It is either a case that the various continuing failures were by design and with a motive (possibly financial) which is not clear from the evidence that has been put in front of me, or it is a case of a bank who were in the thrall of this glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy who charmed and cajoled these bankers into losing their common sense and persuading them to put their own rules and regulations to one side,” she said.
Judge Arbuthnot said she accepted the Indian government’s contention that since Mallya has such a high profile, his trial will be under great scrutiny.
“I find that Mallya will be able to raise with the court any overly prejudicial publicity,” the judge said.
She said any suggestion that CBI courts are too pliable when it comes to CBI cases is not borne out by reliable evidence.
In relation to the defence’s attempts to dispute Indian prison conditions as a bar to Mallya’s extradition on human rights grounds, the judge said the video of the Barrack 12 of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where Mallya would be held, “gives accurate portrayal and has been recently redecorated”.
“In this case, I find that the assurances are clear, the prison Arthur Road in Mumbai has been identified and the cell Barrack No. 12 has been specified. Various other assurances have been made in relation to the RP’s (Requested Person which is Mallya in this case) living conditions in Barrack No. 12 if he is returned and his ability to obtain medical treatment,” she said.
The judge said that the CBI and in particular its senior official, Rakesh Asthana, was criticised by the defence in its attempt to persuade the court that the prosecution was corrupt and politically led. “As will be seen later, I found no evidence that the prosecution was corrupt or politically led,” she said.
“I do not accept that the courts in India are there to do what the politicians tell them to do. As I have already said, the court will be under great scrutiny. I do not find any international consensus which would enable me to find that the judges in India are corrupt,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Mallya sought to disprove the narrative that he has “stolen” money and said his offer to repay the principal amount to the Indian banks was “not bogus”.
Mallya made the remarks while talking to reporters outside the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
“My settlement offer is made before the Karnataka High Court. It is not related to this extradition trial. Nobody disrespects a court of law by making a bogus offer. The assets have been attached by the ED so they cannot be bogus assets,” he said, asserting that his offer to repay the principal amount was not bogus.
“I want to disprove the narrative that I have stolen (money),” he said.
He had said his legal team will review the judgment and take proper steps thereafter.
In reference to settlement offer to Karnataka High Court, Mallya said that he has requested the court that if the settlement is granted then first the employees of Kingfisher be paid.
The trial, which opened at the Magistrates’ Court on December 4 last year, has gone through a series of hearings beyond the initial seven days earmarked for it….
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