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INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Vijay Mallya briefly held, UK court to decide if he’ll be sent back
 
( London, Apr 18,2017):The Modi government's effort to bring Vijay Mallya to justice in India for defaulting on bank loans totalling over Rs 9,000 crore got a boost on Tuesday when the UK accepted its request to help extradite the absconding liquor tycoon.

Acting on an extradition request sent by the CBI in connection with the IDBI Bank scam and a service tax case, UK's Scotland Yard arrested Mallya and produced him in a court which, as is the routine in financial crimes, released him on conditional bail on stiff conditions until May 17 when a senior district judge will start the extradition hearing.

The businessman, declared a proclaimed offender in three cases by Indian courts, was arrested at the London police station he had gone to after learning about the extradition warrant issued against him. This sets the stage for what is going to be a long drawn out legal battle between Mallya and Indian agencies, the CBI as well as the Enforcement Directorate, over the Centre's move to bring him home to face the law for not repaying public sector banks thousands of crores he had borrowed for his nowdefunct Kingfisher Airlines.

It is difficult to hazard a guess about the outcome of the battle because British courts have often employed tough standards to allow extradition requests: perhaps the reason why Mallya tried to play down the dramatic development and accused Indian media of of hyping it up. "Usual Indian media hype. Extradition hearing in court started today as expected," a defiant Mallya tweeted after he was released on a bail bond of Rs 5.4 crore.

However, sources in CBI as well as the MEA emphasised the importance of the arrest by saying it marked the beginning of the extradition process which now has to reach a "logical conclusion".

CBI sources in Delhi said the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London forbade the businessman from leaving or attempting to leave the UK.

In fact, Mallya is supposed to remain confined at his property at Hertfordshire close to London, and not apply for international travel documents or be in the possession of any. His Indian passport, revoked after he left for London, will be with Scotland Yard.

Interestingly, the controversial businessman is also required to keep his mobile phone switched on, fully charged and on his person 24 hours a day.

According to Mallya's counsel in Mumbai, Amit Desai, the proceedings may last six months to a year before the UK court decides whether to send the flamboyant businessman back.

However, Mallya's arrest marks an important step for the Modi government's sustained effort to get him extradited. It has pursued the matter with the highest UK authorities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is learnt, raised the issue when his UK counterpart, Theresa May, visited Delhi last November.

Taking up the baton, finance minister Arun Jaitley broached the matter with UK's chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond and May when he visited London in February. Sources in the government had said May as well as Hammond were sympathetic to India's position that countries should not shelter economic fugitives.

The Centre kept up the pressure, with Jaitley pursuing the matter with Hammond again earlier this month when the UK minister came visiting.

Mallya's case had taken a political dimension much earlier. The businessman had succeeded in securing loans from public sector banks allegedly because of political interference and at terms unfriendly to the exchequer: one of the grounds for the "crony capitalism" charge against the Congressled dispensation.

However, Congress tried to pin him on the Modi government when Mallya, taking advantage of the absence of an arrest warrant against him, left for London the day banks moved a tribunal for revocation of his passport.

Mallya's case is being pursued by both CBI and ED, which are probing him for cheating banks to secure loans worth Rs 9,000 and defaulting. Separately, the ED is probing him for alleged money laundering, specifically for diversion of the loans he took for Kingfisher Airlines which has gone kaput.

The CBI filed a chargesheet on January 24 against Mallya for loan fraud worth Rs 900 crore with IDBI Bank and he was declared a proclaimed offender. The agency was probing him since 2014, first as part of a preliminary enquiry and later registering a case against him in July 2015.

The agency filed another case against Mallya in August 2016 on a complaint by State Bank of India to probe the "larger conspiracy" to cheat a consortium of 17 banks. It was alleged that Mallya took a loan of Rs 6,027 crore from these banks between 2005 and 2010 but "deliberately didn't pay while conspiring with group companies and promoters". The loan amount along with interest stands at over Rs 9,000 crore.

An extradition treaty was signed between India and the UK in 1993 but the latter has not handed over a single fugitive wanted by authorities here.

In fact, during UK PM May's visit to New Delhi last year, the government handed over a list of 57 suspects to be extradited. Some of the top names wanted by India include former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, music director Nadeem Saifi, VVIP chopper scam middleman Christian Michel, 1993 blast accused Tiger Hanif and UK citizen Raymond Varley.

UK courts have to be convinced that Indian agencies have undeniable evidence, a trial has already started in India and there is no political motive or vested interest behind a person's extradition.

The CBI faced this problem while seeking the extradition of Ravi Shankaran, a naval war room leak case accused, when a UK court said the agency didn't have credible and admissible evidence against him.


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