Mallya denies ‘untenable and false allegations’

After almost two years of speaking only through his lawyers, Vijay Mallya, the fugitive former head of India’s United Sprits, has pleaded his innocence on the fraud and money laundering charges at the centre of the hearing to have him extradited from the UK.

(Photo: Wiki)

In a statement he accused India’s legal authorities of making “various untenable and blatantly false allegations” against him. “I have become the ‘poster boy’ of bank default and lightning rod of public anger,” he said.

He denies being a “wilful defaulter” over the almost £1.2 billion a consortium of Indian banks claim he owes them following the collapse of his Kingfisher Airlines in 2012. Indian courts have charged him with fraudulently diverting loans through his Force India Formula 1 grand prix racing team and his Royal Challengers Bangalore Indian Premier League cricket franchise.

Legal documents in India accuse him of being the central figure in a “dishonest plot” to secure loans for Kingfisher.

Mallya, who fled to London in March 2016 just hours before an arrest warrant was issued for him, says in his statement that he has petitioned the high court of Karnataka to unfreeze his global assets. That would allow him, he says, to sell them at market value and repay his creditors, something he has consistently maintained he wishes to do.

India’s legal authorities have already been granted permission to sell his frozen assets to meet those debts.

In his statement, Mallya accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, India’s finance minister, of not replying to letters written to them in 2016. In those letters he said he was being “discriminated against” and asked for an ombudsman to investigate the charges against him.

Even if the Karnataka court allows Mallya to sell assets and repay his creditors, he still faces possible extradition to India not only on the fraud and money laundering charges, but also because he has been found guilty of being in contempt of India’s Supreme Court.

Closing arguments in the extradition hearing are to be put to Westminster Magistrates next month with a ruling following soon after. But that is unlikely to be the end of the affair. Whichever side loses is certain to launch appeals through higher courts in the UK.

Meanwhile, Mallya is living at his mansion in Hertfordshire on bail of £650,000.

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