Vijay Mallya, the fugitive Indian tycoon fighting multiple cases in the UK after defaulting on loans, lost a bid to avoid extradition to his home country where he faces charges of fraud and money laundering.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled against Mallya at a hearing in London Monday. She said she had found that Mallya had made misrepresentations and made a finding that there is a case of conspiracy to defraud. The matter will be referred to the UK Home Office.
The ruling by the British court is a crucial win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has been battling to contain the political damage after some 31 Indians linked to fraud cases fled abroad to avoid prosecution.
With national elections due early next year, Modi is under pressure to act against wealthy defaulters as the nation’s lenders step up efforts to clean up bad loans, partly by tightening bankruptcy rules.
Mallya, 62, was arrested in London in April 2017 after a consortium of 17 banks accused him of wilfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) in debt accumulated by his Kingfisher Airlines — a full-service carrier he founded in 2005 and shut down seven years later. A wilful defaulter is someone who refuses to repay loans despite having the means to do so.
While local authorities labelled the former lawmaker a “fugitive,” he said he was facing trial by media with a “lynch mob mentality all too apparent,” and doubted if he would get a fair trial back home.
Besides Mallya, India’s government is also seeking to prosecute individuals including Nirav Modi, a jeweller who’s been accused by Punjab National Bank of fraud, allegations he’s denied.
Mallya, who has sparred with the local media for portraying him as the poster boy for the nation’s bad loans, has maintained that his airline was an “unfortunate commercial failure” because of macroeconomic factors and government policies.
In tweets this month, Mallya denied the allegations against him but offered to pay lenders back the principal amount he owed.
After taking over an alcohol business empire from his father in the 1980s, Mallya ventured into aviation with Kingfisher Airlines in a bid to redefine luxury travel in India. He was ranked the 45th-richest Indian by Forbes in 2012, with a net worth of $1 billion.
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