FILE PHOTO: Indian businessman Vijay Mallya leaves the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
LONDON (Reuters) – Indian businessman Vijay Mallya lost an appeal in Britain’s High Court on Monday against a 2018 decision to extradite him to India to face fraud charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines.
India wants to bring back Mallya, 64, whose business interests have ranged from aviation to liquor, over $1.4 billion in loans Kingfisher took out from Indian banks which the authorities argue he had no intention of repaying.
“The SDJ (senior district judge) was entitled to find that there was a prima facie case of fraud by false representation,” the judge said in their more than 23,000-word ruling.
Mallya, the co-owner of the Formula One motor racing team Force India which went into administration in 2018, was nicknamed “the King of Good Times” after the slogan of one of his premium beers and his hard-partying lifestyle.
His extradition would be a huge win for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced pressure from political opponents to bring to justice several people who have fled India in recent years to escape prosecution, many for loan defaults.
Mallya’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, had argued that the 2018 extradition ruling by Judge Emma Arbuthnot had “multiple errors” because she did not take into account all the evidence about the financial status of Kingfisher Airlines.
In 2018, Arbuthnot rejected Mallya’s argument that the case was motivated by political considerations, that he would not receive a fair trial in India and that extradition would infringe his human rights.
In her judgement, Arbuthnot said that Indian banking officials might have been in “the thrall of this glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy who charmed and cajoled” them into ignoring their own rules and regulations.
Mallya may now be able to appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court if his legal team argue there is a matter of law that needs to be clarified.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Guy Faulconbridge