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Mallya loses another London court battle

Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya has lost yet another court battle in London. A High Court judge has thrown out his appeal for access to funds held by the court to pay his legal team in India.

Justice Robert Miles found that the 65-year-old former head of United Spirits and United Breweries had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his request for more than £750,000 to continue his court battles in his homeland.

“There was no breakdown of the incurred costs between the various sets of proceedings, there was no attempt to justify the incurred costs by reference to steps already taken, he found.

“No invoices, bills of costs, descriptive schedules or other evidence was provided in support of the amount of costs being sought,” the judge said in his ruling.

Mallya’s assets have been frozen worldwide by orders made in London supporting the case against him in India.

In a separate court order issued in London in February, Mallya was granted around £1.1 million from the Court Funds Office towards his living expenses and to meet legal expenses, but only those related to the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings against him in the United Kingdom. A final hearing in that case is scheduled to start in July.

Mallya’s legal team had argued that the coronavirus pandemic had caused a substantial disruption to the Indian legal system and that lawyers had “effectively downed tools” until their costs were cleared.

He had faced a similar predicament in the UK last year until the court allowed him sufficient funds for lawyers to fight the order to extradite him to India where he faces charges of defrauding a consortium of banks and money laundering centred on the collapse of his Kingfisher Airlines in 2012.

“Lawyers do need to be paid and therefore these are necessary expenses towards proceedings with a very reasonable prospect of success,” Mallya’s lawyer told the court.

In India the courts have sequestered assets of around £1.5 billion from the fugitive businessman, which he claims are more than sufficient to redeem all his debts.

Mallya has repeatedly denied the charges against him and offered to repay the full amount borrowed by Kingfisher Airlines, but neither the banks nor the authorites are willing to accept his offer to “take the money” from his seized assets and let “everyone get on with their lives”.

He claims the sum outstanding is less than £600m, not the £1.15 billion cited by the banks in their claims against him.

The banks are seeking to recover principal and interest, in addition to compound interest at a rate of 11.5% per annum from 25 June 2013. Mallya has also made applications in India to contest the compound interest charge.

Meanwhile, it is now a year since Mallya lost his final legal recourse to fighting extradition from Britain to India when the Supreme Court in London refused to hear his case. That meant he should have been deported by mid June 2020.

However, Mallya has remained on bail in Britain while an undisclosed “confidential legal matter” is resolved. That is widely believed to be a claim for political asylum.

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