New Delhi: In the second major achievement for the Narendra Modi government in its attempts to bring absconders, wanted by Indian authorities, to justice, the Westminster Magistrate Court in London on Monday ordered the extradition of beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya to India to stand trial on the charges brought by the CBI and ED. Also Read - Vijay Mallya Has Applied For ‘Another Route’ to Stay in UK, Says Lawyer
Giving her verdict, Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot referred the decision to the UK Home Office for the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to pass an order based on the verdict. Also Read - Jaishankar Raised Vijay Mallya's Extradition, UK Not Giving Details: Centre Tells SC
Arbuthnot found prima facie a case against Vijay Mallya for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Also Read - UK Court Denies Release of Substantial Funds For Vijay Mallya's Legal Fees
When asked by reporters whether he regrets going to the UK, Mallya said, “The end of the day that’s what the courts are for, that’s how lawyers thrive. Do I regret being in a situation where I’m reading legal papers and paying legal fees? Yes, I do. I could have done something more productive with my time”.
“My legal team will review the judgement in detail and consider various options and then I will decide going forward. There is nothing to be shocked about,” he added.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley welcomed the UK court verdict while taking a dig at the erstwhile UPA government.
“Great Day for India. No one who cheats India will go scot free. The Judgement of UK’s Court is welcome. An offender benefited during the UPA. The NDA brings him to book,” Jaitley wrote on Twitter.
Welcoming the UK court’s decision to extradite Mallya to India, the CBI said, “As per media reports, we have come to know Vijay Mallya’s extradition ordered by a London court. We welcome the decision”.
“We hope to bring him soon and conclude the case. CBI has its own inherent strengths. We worked hard on this case. We are strong on Law and facts and we were confident while pursuing extradition process,” said the CBI spokesperson.
Neetu Sharma, a former Kingfisher employee, also welcomed the UK court’s decision. She said: “It sets things in motion, he has got charges like siphoning & diverting funds. It is not just a case of repayment of money it also involves a lot of criminal deeds. He should face the music.”
The beleaguered liquor baron now has 14 days to challenge the verdict in the higher court.
Mallya’s extradition comes just days after the extradition of Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman who has been chargesheeted in the graft-tainted AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
Michel, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, was brought to India on the night of December 4, following his extradition by the UAE in connection with the case and later produced before the court which had allowed his five-day custodial interrogation by the CBI.
The ruling marked a significant point in the high-profile extradition trial that has lasted over a year.
Earlier in the day, Mallya sought to disprove the narrative that he has “stolen” money and said his offer to repay the principal amount to the Indian banks was “not bogus”.
Mallya made the remarks while talking to reporters outside the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss was on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year.
“My settlement offer is made before the Karnataka High Court. It is not related to this extradition trial. Nobody disrespects a court of law by making a bogus offer.
The assets have been attached by the ED so they cannot be bogus assets,” he said, asserting that his offer to repay the principal amount was not bogus.
The embattled liquor tycoon said that the value of his assets is more than enough to pay everybody and that is exactly what he was focusing on.
“I want to disprove the narrative that I have stolen (money),” he said.
He said his legal team will review the judgment and take proper steps thereafter.
In reference to settlement offer to Karnataka High Court, Mallya said that he has requested the court that if the settlement is granted then first the employees of Kingfisher be paid.
The trial, which opened at the Magistrates’ Court on December 4 last year, has gone through a series of hearings beyond the initial seven days earmarked for it.
Mallya (62) is wanted in India on alleged fraud and money laundering charges amounting to an estimated Rs 9,000 crores. He has been on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year.