'Safe In UK': Vijay Mallya Sees No Grounds For Extradition To India

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India handed over Vijay Mallya's extradition request to the UK earlier this month (File)


London: Liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, wanted in India for Rs 9,000 crores in unpaid dues, said on Wednesday that the authorities have no grounds to extradite him from Britain and he would not leave. He also said he had become a "political football" between the two main political parties as they campaigned for state elections.

Mr Mallya, who co-owns the Force India Formula One team, surfaced at an F1 event where his team launched its 2017 car.

India wants Mr Mallya to face trial for charges of conspiracy and fraud over loans to his collapsed Kingfisher Airlines.

The flamboyant businessman has not left the UK in nearly a year and has attended meetings by video conferencing. "I am safe in this country under UK laws, until proven otherwise. And I would rather be safe than sorry because I certainly do not want to be at the mercy of some maverick in the government of India," he told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Indian government handed over an extradition request to the UK earlier this month.

"There is a requirement for legal and judicial determination here in the UK, let them come with whatever evidence they have -- but I doubt if they have any evidence -- and then let the law take its own course," Mr Mallya said.

The 61-year-old left the country last year and moved to the UK in the middle of efforts by a group of banks to recover the unpaid loans. He has a base in London and a country home bought from the father of triple world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"The government-owned banks are trying to hold me personally responsible for the failure of India's largest airline and to repay their debts," Mr Mallya said.

"Recovery of loans (in this case) is a purely civil matter. The CBI, at the behest of the government, converted it into a criminal matter. And then charges of defrauding banks and money-laundering appeared. I will be and am severely contesting all this, legally. I firmly believe they have absolutely no case against me whatsoever," he stressed.

Mr Mallya attended only one of 21 races last year -- the British Grand Prix at Silverstone next door to his factory -- and watched the rest from a 'control room' installed in his country mansion.

Having faced questions about his team's funding over the years, he said, "We have the resources to continue to develop this car right through 2017. We have budgeted for it, we have provided for it, we have planned for it."

In a series of tweets after the event, Mr Mallya attacked the Indian media and wrote, "Very unfortunate that Indian media do not share pride that an Indian entry into Formula 1 is so successful. Only focussed on blasting me."

(with inputs from Reuters)


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