The court case to extradite fugitive billionaire Vijay Mallya back to India from the UK has been postponed by a further six months after Indian authorities reportedly failed to provide the evidence from their side.
Aaron Watkins, who represents India in the case, said the Crown Prosecution Service needed three to four more weeks to receive the rest of the evidence from India and to review it.
Slamming the prolonged delay by Indian authorities, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court noted 4 December 2017 for a two-week hearing.
Arbuthnot asked, “Are Indians normally very prompt in their responses? They have taken six months so far and we haven’t got any further forward in the past 6 weeks.”
The Chief Magistrate’s comments have left the Indian government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) red-faced. Before the court hearing, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh had told reporters that India had sent all required documents for extradition to the UK.
Mallya, 61, is wanted by Indian authorities for defaulting on loans worth Rs 9,000 crore to various banks. Speaking to reporters later, Mallya again denied the allegations against him and claimed that no loans had ever been diverted. He will remain on conditional bail till 4 December.
The UK court warned that if sufficient evidence was not provided by December, the hearing would be pushed to April 2018.
“Evidence that was requested six weeks ago not yet provided by India.”
Ben Watson, acting for Mallya, said: “We have not yet received the final evidence from the government of India.”
According to The Times of India, Watson had requested for the evidence six weeks ago. “This began on January 31 and it’s now June and we still don’t have the case,” he said, pushing for the hearing to be postponed till spring 2018.
The next hearing will be a management hearing to check on the progress of evidence reception. It will take place on 11 July, and Mallya is exempted from attending it.
Mallya later told reporters, “I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them … You can keep dreaming about a billion pounds; you cannot prove anything without facts.”
Mallya’s many controversies
Once called the “King of Good Times” due to his extravagant lifestyle, Mallya and his companies have been embroiled in financial scandals and controversies.
A group of 17 Indian banks are trying to collect approximately Rs 9,000 crore in loans which Mallya has allegedly routed to gain 100% or a partial stake in about 40 companies across the world. Several agencies including the Income Tax Department and the CBI are investigating Mallya for charges including financial fraud and money laundering.
The 17 banks added a joint petition at the Supreme Court of India in March 2016 to try to prevent Mallya from leaving the country but the Indian government indicated that he had already left. The Enforcement Directorate of India also filed a money laundering case against him in March 2016 for allegedly sending abroad some Rs 900 crore that had been loaned to his airline.
On 24 April 2016, the Ministry of External Affairs revoked Mallya’s passport and he resigned from the Rajya Sabha on 2 May 2016, the day before the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha was prepared to recommend his expulsion.
Currently the Enforcement Directorate is seeking Interpol to raise an international arrest warrant against Mallya. Additionally, the Supreme Court of India has found Mallya guilty of contempt of court and has summoned him to appear before the Court on 10 July.