Business tycoon Vijay Mallya on Monday lost his High Court appeal in London against a 2018 decision to extradite him to India to face fraud charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines. The case will now go to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a final call.
The dismissal effectively clears the way for Vijay Mallya's extradition to India to face the charges in the Indian courts, with 14 days for him to apply for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
If he does apply, the UK Home Office would wait for the outcome of that appeal. But if he does not, under the India-UK Extradition Treaty, it would then be expected to formally certify the court order for Mallya to be extradited to India within 28 days.
The 64-year-old, whose business interests have ranged from aviation to liquor, is wanted in India over Rs 9,000 crore in loans Kingfisher took out from banks which the authorities argue he had no intention of repaying. Vijay Mallya denies the charges against him and is currently on bail.
His lawyer, Clare Montgomery, in a hearing in February said 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.
On Monday, Lord Justice Stephen Irwin and Justice Elisabeth Laing, the two-member bench at the Royal Courts of Justice in London presiding over the appeal, dismissed the appeal in a judgment handed down remotely due to the current coronavirus lockdown.
"We have held there is a prima facie case both of misrepresentation and of conspiracy, and thus there is also a prima facie case of money laundering," the High Court concluded," the judges ruled.
According to sources in Indian agencies investigating the case, Vijay Mallya can appeal against the High Court order in the Supreme Court within 14 days, failing which India will start the extradition process.
"UK Extradition Act permits appeal before Supreme Court only if there is a "significant point of law" to be settled... that too within 14 days period. Even if he chooses for an appeal, it's unlikely to be permitted as there is no significant point of law to be settled in this case. Mallya's extradition is confirmed and sealed," an official said.
Vijay Mallya has repeatedly said that Indian banks can take back 100 per cent of the principal amount owed to them.
"I am saying, please banks take your money. The ED is saying no, we have a claim over these assets. So, the ED on the one side and the banks on the other are fighting over the same assets... What all they are doing to me for the last four years is totally unreasonable," he said in February.
Vijay Mallya's extradition would be a huge win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced pressure from the opposition to bring to justice several people who have fled India in recent years to escape prosecution, many for loan defaults.
(With inputs from agencies)