India today secured a major victory in its efforts to extradite fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya from the United Kingdom, but the battle is still far from over. The 62-year-old businessman -- who faces charges of loan default to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore, money laundering and diversion of loan funds -- is free to appeal against Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot's ruling authorising his extradition before the country's higher courts.
According to legal experts, it may be months before Mr Mallya is extradited to India. He now has 14 days to approach the Court of Appeal -- a period for which he will remain on bail. As this judicial forum is known to get clogged with cases, the process could take up to five or six months. Also, it is not uncommon for the Court of Appeal to overturn the verdict of a lower court.
Even if the Crown Prosecution Service (which is fighting the case on India's behalf) were to win there, the fugitive tycoon can still apply for the right to appeal before the country's Supreme Court -- a process that will take at least six weeks. If granted, the appeal will be taken up in the country's top court, giving him nearly a year to fashion his defences against the extradition suit.
The Crown Prosecution Service could alternatively apply for an expedited appeal process, but such a request is not usually granted in the absence of a specific need for urgency.
In the unlikely chance of Mr Mallya deciding against filing an appeal, the prosecution will send the magistrate's verdict to United Kingdom Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who will have to take a decision on the matter within 28 days of the judgment date. Although the decision to extradite the fugitive businessman ultimately lies with the Home Secretary, he will not be able to overturn the court's ruling.
Describing Mr Mallya as a "bejewelled, flashy, ostensibly billionaire playboy", the Westminister Magistrate's court earlier today ordered that he be extradited to India to stand trial. Judge Arbuthnot said there was no sign of a "false case" being mounted against the businessman, and suggested that he may have "charmed and cajoled bankers into losing their common sense".
Five days ago, Mr Mallya offered to pay banks "100 per cent" of the principal loan amount in order to end the narrative of him having "stolen" money from various lenders. If extradited, he will be lodged in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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