'God bless Vijay Mallya': UK village doesn't want liquor baron extradited

Vijay Mallya arrives for a case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Photo: PTI
We don't know if the residents of beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya's possible new home, Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail (in the event that he is extradited), will get along with him or not, but the locals of the English village of Tewin, where the fugitive liquor baron currently resides, appear to have taken a shine to him.  

Tewin's locals say they don't want Mallya to be extradited to India, reported the Times of India on Monday. In fact, the families and multi-millionaires who reside in the village, which is located around 48 km north of London, consider him a hero, the national daily added.  

While Indians wait impatiently to see what fate, and the law, have in store for Mallya, whose extradition trial begins on Monday in London, he has been earning the goodwill of the village folk. According to the report, Mallya has employed his charisma and wealth, and the purchase of a Christmas tree for the village, to earn the support of the 2,000 residents of Tewin.

What do these folk really think of Mallya? "He is a great asset to this village," the Rose and Crown pub's barman told the national daily, adding, "We are happy to have people like him — it's impressive he is involved in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton used to serve beer in this bar — there is an affinity with F1 here, as you can see from the car show." The barman, the report added, was referring to the Tewin Classic Car Show. He didn't stop there either. Admitting that the people of Tewin know that Mallya is "in some sort of bother", the barman told the national daily: "We all hope he does not get extradited. Let's keep him in Tewin. God bless Mallya. I hope he comes into my pub. He can have a Bombay Sapphire on the house." 

One of the locals described Mallya's largesse to the paper. Informing the national daily that Mallya frequents a pub called the Plume of Feathers, the local revealed that he "invited the Plume staff to his Diwali party". According to the unnamed local resident, the staff said Mallya's "place was amazing and has a bowling alley, cinema room and swimming pool". The resident added: "He flies in a helicopter. I've heard he keeps all his classic cars underground."

Other locals had similar things to tell the national daily about Mallya, who is wanted in India over the non-payment of huge bank loans and a case of fraud and money laundering. However, their good wishes might not help Mallya in the long run.  

Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, now defunct, is said to be in default of bank loans to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore plus penalties and surcharges, making it reportedly a total debt of Rs 9,000 crore. He has, however, been charged of misdemeanour connected with only Rs 900 crore — accused of colluding with senior executives of IDBI Bank to obtain this facility. It is further alleged that he syphoned off a part of the money abroad for personal gain and, in effect, indulged in money laundering. He denies the charges. 

A joint team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) is in London on Monday for Mallya's extradition hearing in a London court, news agencies reported while citing officials.   

As reported by agencies, the CBI-ED team will assist their lawyers in securing Mallya's extradition — the second extradition from the UK after signing an extradition treaty with the country 25 years ago. The hearing was set to begin later on Monday in a Westminster Magistrates Court.

Indian agencies have reportedly said that they are confident of putting up solid evidence against Mallya and that he should get extradited.

On November 20, a defiant Mallya appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London for his pre-trial hearing where the liquor baron's extradition hearing was confirmed for eight days starting December 4. According to agency reports, Mallya, out on bail on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard earlier this year, was released by the judge on the same bail conditions and asked to appear at court on December 4. The trial will last until December 14, with December 8 marked as a non-sitting day.

Speaking to reporters as he left the case management hearing, Mallya said he has repeatedly stressed that he has done nothing wrong and will let the evidence speak in court. "It will all become clear in court," he said.  

As reported earlier, Mallya will fight the attempt to drag him back to India not just on the issue of poor prison conditions in India, but on the alleged demerits of New Delhi's argument.  

According to the report, Mallya has unveiled his big gun — Claire Montgomery, a barrister described as "the most formidable member of the bar" and author of a book The Law of Extradition.   /> With agency inputs