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Who is businessman Vijay Mallya and why is he a fugitive?

A look at why India’s government wants to bring business tycoon back

Gulf News

Once called the “King of Good Times” due to his extravagant lifestyle, flamboyant business tycoon Vijay Mallya and his companies are now embroiled in controversies and financial scandals. Mallya’s freewheeling ways ended in 2016 when he fled to the United Kingdom (UK) in order to evade payment of bank loans worth approximately Rs90 billion (Dh4.5 billion).

As the Indian government intensifies efforts to bring him back to the country, lets look into his misdoings.

Who is Vijay Mallya?

Born on December 18, 1955, Vijay Mallya is an Indian businessman and former politician who is the subject of an extradition effort by the Indian government to return him to India from the United Kingdom (UK) to face charges of financial crimes.

Mallya is the ex-chairman of United Spirits, the largest spirits company in India and continues to serve as chairman of United Breweries Group, an Indian conglomerate with interests including liquor, aviation infrastructure, real estate and fertilisers.

Why is Vijay Mallya India’s most wanted fugitive?

Mallya and his companies have been embroiled in financial scandals since 2012. He left India on March 2, 2016 after saying he wanted to move to Britain to be closer to his children. A group of 17 Indian banks are trying to collect approximately Rs90 billion (US$1.3 billion) in loans which Mallya has allegedly routed to gain 100 per cent or a partial stake in about 40 companies across the world.

Several agencies including Income Tax (IT) Department and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are investigating Mallya for charges including financial fraud and money laundering, and the Attorney General said that Mallya’s assets abroad are “far in excess to loans taken by him”.

The 17 banks added a joint petition at the Supreme Court of India in March 2016 to try to prevent Mallya from leaving the country, but Indian government indicated that he had already left. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also filed a money laundering case against him in March 2016 for allegedly sending abroad some Rs9 billion (US$130 million) that had been loaned to his airline.

On April 24, 2016, India’s Ministry of External Affairs revoked Mallya’s passport. Currently the Enforcement Directorate is asking Interpol to raise an international arrest warrant against Mallya.

What are the other cases against him?

The High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad issued a non-bailable warrant against Mallya on March 13, 2016 for his failure to appear in the court regarding an allegation of cheating GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited by issuing them a dishonoured cheque for Rs5 million (US$73,000).

What is Mallya’s current legal status?

Mallya is on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April 2017. He is fighting an extradition case in the UK. On June 16, 2018, Mallya was ordered to pay Rs18.1 million to Indian banks by a United Kingdom court. He was also asked to pay money towards registration of worldwide freezing order and of Karnataka’s Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT).

Can Mallya be extradited to India?

Mallya is currently contesting the money laundering charges against him in London after India initiated extradition proceedings to bring him back to the country.

Last week, while leaving the Oval stadium in London, he was asked by reporters as to when he will go back to India. To this, Mallya replied that it was for the judge to decide.

What are the chances of Mallya’s extradition as per the Treaty between India and the UK?

Article 2 of the Extradition Treaty signed between India and the UK states that “an offence may be an extradition offence notwithstanding that it relates to taxation or revenue or is of a purely fiscal character.”

This means that an offence of revenue or taxation qualifies as an extradition-worthy offence. Hence, it should make it easy for India to seek Mallya to be extradited to India.

UK Minister Graham Stuart on Sunday assured justice in the extradition of Mallya while maintaining that due process in the case will move ahead. When asked about UK’s help to India for Mallya’s extradition, Stuart said, “We have one of the most respected legal systems in the world. The UK is not a haven for those who break the law. We have close cooperation with India. Due process will always go ahead and it will be ensured that justice is done.”

What happens after extradition? Will the country recover the money that is outstanding against him?

Once Mallya is extradited, the chances of recovery of money that is outstanding against him will brighten. In India, the ED has moved court to declare him a fugitive economic offender. The agency has sought that confiscation of Mallya’s properties worth Rs125 billion be carried out once he is declared an economic offender.

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