'There are grounds for regarding Mallya as a fugitive from justice'

UK court says nothing wrong in calling Mallya 'fugitive'

A United Kingdom court has felt that there was nothing wrong in considering liquor baron Vijay Mallya as a "fugitive" due to his fleeing from India and resisting the extradition plea against him.

England and Wales High Court (Commercial Court) has made this remark in its order on May 8 this year when it refused to overturn a worldwide order freezing Mallya's assets. It also upheld an Indian court's ruling in favour of a consortium of 13 Indian banks to recover funds amounting to nearly $ 1.55 billion.

"Dr Mallya's departure from India, to where he has never since returned, and his resistance to India's application to extradite him to face trial on serious criminal charges, provide some grounds for regarding him as a fugitive from justice," Judge Andrew Henshaw said in his order.

"In contrast with this extensive previous travel to India, Dr Mallya left India on March 2, 2016, shortly after the $ 40 million transactions...and has never returned. He is now fighting extradition proceedings brought by the Indian government, which seeks his return to face criminal charges relating to alleged financial misconduct. In all these circumstances, and even taking account of the fact that Dr Mallya is contesting the alleged grounds for extradition, there are grounds for regarding Dr Mallya as a fugitive from justice," the order stated.

Mallya left India on March 2, 2016, after banks approached the Supreme Court seeking action against him for not settling his dues that ran into over Rs 9,400 crore.

At present, he is facing investigations by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate and it is claimed that Mallya took loans and parked a portion of it abroad violating the law. Two extradition pleas - one on default of loans by the CBI and the other on money laundering by the ED - are now in UK courts and the hearings are slated for December.

Mallya had recently claimed in a statement that he has become the "poster boy" of bank default and a "lightning rod" of public anger while putting the blame on the Narendra Modi government and lending banks for investigating agencies levelling "untenable and blatantly false" charges against him. Mallya also offered to settle bank dues by selling some of his assets and sought permission from the Karnataka High Court on June 22.

Mallya, who is an NRI since 1988, had told the UK court that he has been living in England since 1992 where he continues to have indefinite leave to remain.

Mallya also said that his mother and step-siblings stay there and that he travelled from India on March 2, 2016, to the UK on his way to Switzerland to attend the World Motor Sports Council. He returned to England on March 4, 2016.

The court, however, said the evidence indicated that prior to March 2016, Mallya travelled fairly regularly between India and England for business and political reasons. "Most of his business interests were in or closely connected with India, most notably United Breweries Group and Kingfisher Airlines," it said.

"Dr Mallya was a member of the Council of States between 2002 and 2016 and he says he regularly attended Parliament. The claimants (banks) add that Dr Mallya was, in fact, Karnataka’s representative when he left India at the beginning of March 2016, resigning only on May 4, 2016. Whilst Dr Mallya has indefinite leave to stay in the UK, he is said to be a non-resident taxpayer," the court added.

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