Next phase in Mallya extradition case to play out this week

The next act in the drawn out saga of whether Vijay Mallya should be extradited to India could be played out this week.

Vijay Mallya

Following a ruling on December 10 by Westminster Magistrates that the former head of United Sprits, should be sent back to India, Home Secretary Savid Javid has had two months to consider the judgement. That expires this week.

India’s Sunday Express quoted a Home Office spokesman over the weekend as saying: “By law, [Javid] may only consider four issues — whether the person would be subject to the death penalty; whether speciality arrangements are in place (these ensure that a person can only be tried for the offences for which he has been extradited); whether the person has previously been extradited to the UK from another territory; and whether a person has been transferred to the UK by the International Criminal Court”.

If the Home Secretary fails to make a decision within the two month time limit the person concerned may apply to be discharged. However, the Secretary of State can apply to the High Court for an extension of the decision date. More than one extension can be sought if necessary.

Either Mallya, who is facing charges of fraud, money laundering and violation of India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), or the Indian authorities can appeal against the decision within 14 days of the Home Secretary’s order being made. It is widely expected that an appeal will be lodged.

Meanwhile on Friday Mallya claimed properties worth more than Rs 13,000 crore (approximately £1.514 billion) have been attached in India, more than the “claimed” Rs 9,000 crore (£1.15 billion) he “ran away with”.

In a series of tweets, Mallya claimed that the banks to which he owes money “have given an open licence to their lawyers in England to pursue multiple frivolous litigations against” him questioning the “brazen” spending of “public money on legal fees”.

“Every morning I wake up to yet another attachment by the DRT (Debt Recovery Tribunal) recovery officer. Value already crossed (Rs) 13,000 crore. Banks claim dues including all interest of (Rs) 9,000 crore which is subject to review. How far will this go and well beyond? Justified??”, Mallya tweeted.

Meanwhile, a special Prevention of Money Laundering (PML) court will hear on Tuesday a plea filed by the 17-bank seeking early release of Mallya’s assets worth about Rs 12,500 crore that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached. The banks want these assets to be sold immediately to realise the best value.

Last month, the PML court in Mumbai declared Mallya a fugitive economic offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders’ Act, 2018.

It is also possible that this week the Swiss authorities will rule whether to supply India with details of Mallya’s bank accounts held in Switzerland. Mallya is opposing the request.
In separate developments the Indian banks have filed court documents in London seeking to discover the “true ownership” of assets including yachts, cars and paintings.

Mallya says the items are held by trusts over which he has no control, according to the banks’ filings.

The superyachts are the 95-meter (312-foot) Indian Empress and the 50-meter Force India. Force India is impounded in Southampton and Indian Empress was sold by a Maltese court in September for 35 million euros ($40 million), which is being held by the court. According to court documents, Force India is owned by a Maltese company and the Indian Empress was owned by an Isle of Man company until its sale.

The banks allege that on board the Indian Empress were an “Elton John piano and high value artwork”. They want to know whether these had been removed before it was sold.

There are “many very valuable assets” that are held through “a complex ownership structure comprising offshore companies and discretionary trusts,” the banks said.

The trusts are said to be operated for the benefit of Mallya’s family, including his three children and his mother. Though Mallya says he has no interest in those trusts and assets, the banks said they “do not believe him” and argue that he does, or that he “has only relatively recently divested himself of his interests to make himself judgment-proof.”

Judge Christopher Hancock adjourned the hearing on Friday, saying the case would be considered at a later date.

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