Vijay Mallya to return to court

Tomorrow (13 June) is a crunch day for Vijay Mallya, the former head of India’s United Spirits (USL) group, who returns to Westminster Magistrates Court for the hearing on India’s request to extradite him.

Vijay Mallya (Photo: Wiki)

The Indian authorities will need to show a strong likelihood of a conviction for a serious crime for the petition to succeed, but given that Mallya has been found guilty of contempt by the supreme court in Delhi, he will need to make a strong case for himself that the charges against him are unwarranted or, as he has claimed on numerous occasions, politically motivated.

Whatever the magistrates rule next Tuesday, the case is likely to move up the British legal ladder through a series of appeals.

The extradition hearing comes in advance of India’s supreme court’s plan to sentence him on 10 July for contempt of court by not disclosing all his assets and diverting $40m to overseas accounts held by his children, in violation of previous court orders.

The court has been considering its sentence since finding Mallya in contempt in early May. He has been ordered to attend in person for sentencing but is unlikely to do so as he would face immediate arrest on entering India. He fled to the UK in March 2016 on the day court orders were issued to seize his diplomatic passport, a document held by all members of India’s Senate.

Mallya was arrested in London on 18 May to face an extradition warrant. He was released on bail on condition that he surrendered his remaining passport, continued to live at his $15m Hertfordshire mansion and kept his mobile phone on him and fully charged at all times.

Mallya has been increasingly embattled since his Kingfisher airline (named after the Indian beer brand produced by United Breweries, now controlled by Heineken) collapsed into administration in 2012.

A consortium of Indian banks is seeking repayment of some £1.1bn in loans and interest stemming from the failure of Kingfisher. They claim that Mallya misappropriated the funds, diverting some of the loans into buying properties abroad.

He has consistently denied all charges against him, claiming that they are politically motivated, but has been declared a “wilful defaulter” by a lower court.

Mallya sold his controlling stake in USL to Diageo in 2012 and in 2015 the UK liquor giant struck a deal to pay his $75m to step down as USL’s non-executive chairman. The court has ruled that he dishonestly diverted the first $40m of that payment to family in America when it should have been declared as part of his assets being assessed for debt repayment.

In addition to being forced out of USL, Mallya is now under extreme pressure from Heineken to cease being chairman of United Breweries. He still holds a significant stake in the brewer but has not attended board meetings since he fled to the UK. In addition, India’s stock market authorities have banned Mallya from holding office or trading in any companies whose shares are listed on the market.

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