By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – The Indian government has failed to provide any substantial evidence to justify extraditing tycoon Vijay Mallya from Britain to face fraud charges, his lawyer told a London court on Wednesday.
India wants to extradite 62-year-old Indian businessman from Britain to face criminal action relating to loans taken out by his defunct Kingfisher Airlines and Indian authorities want to recover about $1.4 billion they say Kingfisher owes.
In her closing submission, Mallya’s lawyer Clare Montgomery told London’s Westminster Magistrates Court that India had failed to provide enough evidence to form a “prima facie” case against him necessary to warrant his extradition.
“It’s undermined and set to nought by their own evidence,” she said.
The Indian government says Kingfisher took out a series of loans from Indian banks, in particular the state-owned IDBI, with the aim of palming off huge losses which Mallya knew the failing airline was going to sustain.
It argues Mallya, who moved to Britain in March 2016, had no intention of repaying money it borrowed from IDBI in 2009 and the loans had been taken out under false pretensions, on the basis of misleading securities and with the money spent differently to how the bank had been told.
Montgomery said the evidence she and the Indian government had provided showed Kingfisher (KFA) had been clear about what the loans were for – to secure the airline’s viable future – and that it had been open about its losses.
“Full and complete and accurate information was provided and I can demonstrate that,” Montgomery said, saying suggestions that there was a “secret package of knowledge” about Kingfisher’s financial position which was not provided to IDBI were “utterly unfounded”.
She said the Indian authorities had relied on testimony from people who were not involved at the time of the loans and they had failed to show any false statements had been made.
“The idea that this was a carefully thought out dishonest strategy promoted by him in the knowledge that KFA was bound to fail is just nonsense,” Montgomery told England’s Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot who will decide the case.
“This is a financial disaster for him as much as the banks.”
The Indian government’s Enforcement Directorate, which fights financial crimes, is seeking to declare Mallya a “fugitive economic offender” and to confiscate 125 billion rupees worth of his assets.
Mark Summers, the lawyer acting for the Indian government, said it was not their case that Mallya had taken out the loans intending that the airline should fail, but his intention was if it did, he would not have to repay them.
He said the optimistic message Kingfisher had given the bank about its future when it took out the loan was not even vaguely consistent with a much more downbeat internal assessment.
The case is due to conclude on Wednesday with Arbuthnot expected to deliver her decision at a later date.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)