LONDON: A British court on Monday ruled Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya, the owner of Kingfisher beer and head of the Force India Formula One team, can be extradited to his homeland to face fraud charges.
Mallya has been fighting to remain in Britain but judge Emma Arbuthnot said he had misrepresented how loans received from banks would be used and therefore had a case to answer.
She said bankers had been “charmed” by a “glamorous, flashy, famous, bejewelled, bodyguarded, ostensibly billionaire playboy” into losing their common sense.
Mallya will be able to make a final appeal against the ruling to Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
Mallya left India in March 2016 owing more than US$1 billion after defaulting on loan payments to a state-owned bank and allegedly misusing the funds.
The loans from the state-owned IDBI bank were intended to bail out his failed carrier Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya said in July that he had made an “unconditional offer” to an Indian court in a bid to settle the charges, but denies that was an admission of guilt.
“I cannot understand how my extradition decision ... and my settlement offer are linked in any way,“ he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
“Wherever I am physically, my appeal is ‘please take the money’. I want to stop the narrative that I stole money,“ he added.
‘King of Good Times’
Lawyer Mark Summers, representing the Indian authorities, said during an earlier hearing, that “the focus of our case is on his conduct, how he misused the banks”.
He told the court that Kingfisher Airlines had been incurring losses and was forced to defer payments to its creditors. It sought loans in October 2009 and hoped to emerge from the global financial crisis as a profitable venture.
“This was an airline in trouble at this stage, which is why it was seeking financial assistance from a large number of banks,“ for large amounts of money, Summers said.
Known for his lavish lifestyle, Mallya made Kingfisher beer a global brand.
He stepped down as the director of the Indian Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.
His financial dealings are being investigated by the federal Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency.
Mallya was once known as the “King of Good Times” but dropped off India’s most wealthy list in 2014, engulfed by Kingfisher Airlines’ massive debts.
He has been living in a sprawling US$15 million mansion in southeast England but has denied absconding. — AFP