The High Court of Justice in the U.K. on Monday dismissed the appeal of businessman Vijay Mallya against a lower court’s order for his extradition to India in connection with the IDBI Bank fraud case.
The High Court did not find any merit in the objections raised by Mr. Mallya to the senior district judge’s findings on December 10, 2018, that a prima facie case was made out against him on account of misrepresentation to the bank in securing credit facilities, conspiracy and money laundering. Mr. Mallya has 14 days to apply for permission to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court.
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“Now, Mr. Mallya has 14 days to file an application in the High Court for permission to appeal in the Supreme Court , which takes up constitutional matters and issues of larger public interest. We believe that it will be turned down in all likelihood. Once he exhausts all legal avenues, we will have 28 days to bring him back,” said a senior Enforcement Directorate official.
As flight operations are hit globally due to COVID-19, in case his extradition is cleared by the final authority during the lockdown period, he may be brought back on board any special aircraft, including Air India, the official said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation said the decision was a result of meticulous probe and would strengthen the “war” against the economic offenders who evaded judicial proceedings in India.
The U.K. High Court, in its 43-page judgment, discussed threadbare Mr. Mallya’s submissions against the lower court order, holding that on the first impression the charges made against him by the Indian probe agencies stood.
The agencies have alleged that Mr. Mallya, between September 1, 2009, and January 24, 2017, conspired with A. Ragunathan, S. Borkar, A. Nadkami, A. Shah, Y. Agarwal, B. Batra, O. Bundellu, S. Srinivasan, R. Sridhar and others to cheat those who might deposit funds with the IDBI Bank.
This was done “by dishonestly causing and permitting the bank to sanction and disburse loans” to Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) in the order of (a) ₹1,500 million on October 7, 2009, (b) ₹2,000 million on November 4, 2009, and (c) ₹7,500 million on November 27, 2009, with the intention not to repay them.
The alleged conspiracy was executed by supplying to the bank false information on Kingfisher’s profitability and the value and/or availability of securities to be relied upon. The funds so raised were diverted and laundered.
The High Court, which had heard the case in February, also turned down the appellant’s contention that the lower court had erred in law in its approach to the prima facie case test and the admissibility of the respondent’s evidence.
7 key aspects
On the issue of “dual criminality,” the High Court highlighted seven important aspects coinciding with the allegations in India. The three loans were disbursed as the result of a conspiracy; they were given despite KFA’s weak financials, negative net worth and low credit rating; and despite the fact that KFA, as a new customer, did not meet the norms of IDBI’s corporate loans policy.
The appellant was party to false representations on several counts, including the offer of “symbolic” and “grossly inadequate security” in the form of a negative lien on 12 hire purchase aircraft, despite knowing that KFA would not get title to them during the period of the loan.
Mr. Mallya’s dishonest intention not to repay the loans was shown by his later conduct in trying to avoid the personal and corporate guarantees, the court observed.
The businessman, who faces charges of wilful loan defaults of over ₹9,000 crore, had flown out of India on March 2, 2016. The Indian government made an extradition request on February 9, 2017, after which he was arrested and granted conditional bail on April 18, 2017, in the CBI case. Following the ED’s request, he was re-arrested on October 3, 2017, and once again bailed.
A Mumbai court has declared Mr. Mallya a fugitive under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, while the ED has attached assets worth about ₹13,000 crore in the cases involving him.