SBI argues in UK court to declare Mallya bankrupt

A consortium of Indian public sector banks led by State Bank of India (SBI) sought a bankruptcy order against embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya during a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday as part of efforts to recoup around 1.145 billion pounds in unpaid loans.

Judge Michael Briggs presided over the ongoing hearing in the insolvency division of the court on a bankruptcy petition filed by the banks last year, in relation to lending by Mallya’s now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

"Why should we take less than everything we are owed," said Marcia Shekerdemian, the barrister for the Indian banks, in reference to settlement offers.

The court also heard that the banks do not accept the former Kingfisher Airlines boss’ assertion that most of his assets are in India and to a lesser extent worldwide. A villa in France and assets spread across the British Virgin Islands, a trust registered in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts & Nevis and the Indian Empress superyacht in Malta were some of Mallya's worldwide assets referred to during the course of Wednesday's hearing.

"We cannot take Dr Mallya’s assertions at face value,” Shekerdemian said.

Mallya’s legal team, led by barrister Philip Marshall, argued for the bankruptcy petition to be dismissed because their client was being unfairly pursued by the banks in India and the UK on opposing grounds.

"Payment has been inhibited by virtue of the intervention by the Enforcement Directorate of India… the banks are seeking a bankruptcy order against Dr Mallya for non-payment but have created a situation where he can’t make a payment,” Marshall told the court.

A previous UK High Court ruling had refused to overturn a worldwide order freezing Mallya’s assets and upheld an Indian court’s ruling that the consortium of 13 Indian banks were entitled to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds. The banks then launched efforts to recover dues as part of the freezing order, with the bankruptcy petition aimed at seizing UK-based Mallya’s assets to recover the dues.

Meanwhile, Mallya remains on bail pending the UK High Court appeal hearing in the extradition proceedings brought by India in relation to alleged fraud and money laundering charges amounting to Rs 9,000 crores.

He had been arrested on an extradition warrant back in April 2017 and has been fighting his extradition in the UK courts since then.

The 63-year-old businessman was granted permission to appeal against his extradition order, which is scheduled in the Royal Courts of Justice in London for February next year.

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