Mallya says he feels vindicated after UK court allows extradition appeal

Vijay Mallya

Beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Tuesday described as a "vindication" a UK High Court ruling granting him permission to appeal against an extradition order of a lower court on the grounds of the prima facie case presented by the Indian authorities.

The 63-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss told reporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London that he has always maintained that the charges against him were fabricated and repeated his offer to pay back the debt owed to Indian banks.

"I have always maintained that these are false charges, fabricated charges and have no merit. And I think my point has now been vindicated," said Mallya, as he was surrounded by reporters at the end of a day-long hearing in the High Court before Justices George Leggatt and Andrew Popplewell.

"Two senior-most judges of the High Court have given me permission to appeal the decision of the Westminster Magistrate in the prima facie case on the merits of the charges against me by the government of India... I wanted to win on the prima facie grounds because that is central to everything and deals with the government's charges against me and the Division Bench felt that decision was appeal-able, and that means the most to me," he said.

"I still want the banks to take all their money, do what they have to do and leave me in peace," he added.

After hearing arguments from Mallya's barrister Clare Montgomery, the High Court judges concluded that reasonable arguments could be made on some aspects of Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot's ruling in favour of a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against Mallya last December.

Mallya called on the Indian government to review its policies to support India's "fragile" aviation industry in the wake of the recent collapse of Jet Airways.

He said: "I have always offered to pay it all back, where is the question of fraud. Now, the unthinkable has happened Jet has collapsed. That reflects the fragile state of the aviation industry in India. The government needs to do something about that.

"It is very unfair in India that if a business fails, the promoter is accused of fraud almost automatically. That is not right."

Mallya, accompanied by his son Sidharth and partner Pinky Lalwani, watched the proceedings in court as Montgomery characterised aspects of Judge Arbuthnot's ruling as plain wrong.

The two-judge bench of the Administrative Court division of the UK High Court handed down its judgment at the end of a hearing seeking permission to appeal against extradition to face charges in India of fraud and money laundering amounting to an estimated Rs 9,000 crores.

While the judges dismissed a majority of the five grounds as well as any ground to challenge UK home secretary Sajid Javid's sign off on the extradition order, they did grant permission for Mallya's defence team to present arguments on aspects of the evidence relied upon to build a case of fraud against Mallya.

The case will now proceed to a full hearing stage, the time-frame for which is to be determined in the coming weeks.

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