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Friday 24 January 2020

Mallya’s purse strings tightened, but extradition far cry

London/New Delhi: Defaulter and absconder Vijay Mallya, who has so far been beyond the reach of India”s law enforcement agencies for not being able to repay loans to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore, will hereafter be able to spend an equivalent of a measly Rs 4.5 lakh a week in England. This was ruled by the court in England that has been hearing the case of Mallya’s extradition demanded by India. The court had earlier ordered a confiscation of his properties.

According to the documents of the court, Mallya had pleaded for a spending limit of Rs 18 lakh a week. The court, say sources, reduced the amount drastically, looking at his dubious track record in India.

Mallya has no less than three houses, two ships and a fleet of cars in England. Two of his ships — Force India and Zippo — are up for sale through auctions. Mallya has demanded a minimum of Rs 105 crore for Force India and a minimum of Rs 2.5 crore for Zippo.

If the consortium of Indian banks, which are stuck with a bad non-performing asset situation, are to be believed, Mallya took loans from the bank only to send the money across to his wife and children overseas. The court on Saturday, convinced of such questionable money transfers by Mallya, limited his spending limit.

The defence produced as witness before the Westminster Magistrate Court a “banking expert” Paul Rex on Saturday. Rex opined in the court that Mallya had not intended to cheat the banks. Rex submitted that he”s had 20 years of experience in the banking sector, on the basis of which Mallya”s conduct in India did not come across as suspicious.

Clair Montgomery, the defence lawyer of Mallya, argued that the advocate of the Government of India, Crown Prosecution Service CPS, could not establish the charges against his client — one of the prime charges being that Mallya”s loan applications lacked bona fides. The Indian side insisted so on the basis of the fact that Mallya”s airline business, Kingfisher, was bound to fail at a time when the loans were sought.

Montgomery argued, on the other hand, that circumstances have been responsible for the failure of Kingfisher. He cited the worldwide recession of the period 2009-10 as a reason for the failure.

Which side sounds more convincing to the court would determine whether Mallya would or would not return to India.

On his part, Mallya has pleaded that the charges against him are “politically motivated”, wherein the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Indian National Congress and the Shiv Sena are benefiting from the controversy. To establish this, Montgomery cited the history of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that smacks of control by the government of the day. This allegation was made in the presence of the CBI team sent to the court, led by Special Director Rakesh Asthana.

In the court of Justice Emma Arbuthnot, Mallya”s lawyer also argued that the credibility of the documents submitted by the Indian government in the court was questionable. Several of them looked like “templates”, the lawyer argued.

Hindusthan Samachar/Surajit Dasgupta

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