Coronavirus risk could stop disgraced spirits group CEO’s extradition

The door has closed – almost – on Vijay Mallya’s three-year fight to avoid extradition to India to face charges of corruption and money laundering.

(Photo: Wiki)

And now lawyers say only Covid-19 may save him from extradition.

Two UK Supreme Court judges, (the highest court in the land) have ruled that the case presented by the former head of United Spirits and United Breweries raised no issues of public interest and thus his appeal would not be heard.

The 64-year-old self-proclaimed “King of Good Times” was arrested in London in April 2017 after fleeing to Britain a year earlier. In India, 17 banks accused him of deliberately defaulting on loans of £1.15 billion by Kingfisher Airlines, an ill-fated carrier he launched in 2005 but which went spectacularly bust in 2012.

He has since been proclaimed a wilful defaulter, having the means to repay the debts but refusing to do so. For his part, Mallya has always denied the charges and has “begged” India to use the proceeds of confiscated assets to settle the matter.

Under English law, Mallya must now be extradited to India within the next 28 days. But he might still have one final faint hope of avoiding being taken to Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail where special facilities have been installed to house him while he awaits trial.

Lawyer Nick Vamos, who led the Crown Prosecution Service’s extradition team for four years, claims that Mallya might still be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, according to Bloomberg.

That would not automatically delay his extradition however. Only if and when the European court accepted the case would it direct the UK not to extradite Mallya pending its ruling, the lawyer said.

Mallya could also apply to bring a human rights challenge to the High Court based on a change of circumstance between when the legal arguments were heard in the case and him being taken to India. The High Court might grant leave to appeal if it is satisfied that this would avoid real injustice and that the circumstances are exceptional.

That exceptional circumstance could be Covid-19.

“He could argue that taking him to India and putting him in prison exposes him to something the High Court never considered because Covid-19 didn’t exist then and now it does,” Vamos said.

Before the pandemic struck the Indian government, assured the UK courts that in the Mumbai jail Mallya’s health needs would be fully met.

In addition, India retains an embargo on inward travel, so simply putting Mallya on a plane at Heathrow presents problems. The Indian government, however, has made Mallya’s case so high-profile that it could even consider sending a private plane to collect him.

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