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HomeOpinionDiaryCan it be any easier for Vijay Mallya?

Can it be any easier for Vijay Mallya?

If arrest is a formality, so is the release. Infamous businessman and former Rajya Sabha member Vijay Mallya, who is wanted in connection with Rs 9,000 crore bank loan default committed by his now-defunct company Kingfisher Airlines, has been re-arrested in London, after having fled for safer shores in Britain. The self-proclaimed “King of the Good Times”, nevertheless, bailed out in record 24 minutes.

‘I have money; I can even buy ‘law’

Mallya reportedly spent about GBP 650,000 to get his first bail, when the Scotland Yard arrested him in April, and had to shell out again similar sum.  This reminds of Michael Jackson expending “$35 million to cover up molestations of 24 boys.”

Even after Kingfisher Airlines collapsed in October 2012, the “flamboyant businessman” maintained his high-flying lifestyle, eventually becoming a denigrated symbol of India’s broader bad-debt crisis.

The two Indian law enforcement agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) reportedly found that Mallya had diverted funds of over Rs 6,000 crore to shell companies outside India, including entities in the United Kingdom.

The Crown Prosecution Service, the agency of public prosecutors that serves England and Wales, is moving charges against the fugitive, on the basis of evidence furnished by the ED. The ED legal experts claim that the data is sufficed to set the extradition process in motion, indicating a prima-facie case against the “proclaimed offender.”

Mallya, who has been living in self-imposed exile in London since early last year, is battling the “extradition” request by the Indian government. The “wilful defaulter” is facing about half-a-dozen arrest warrants back in India, including foreign exchange violations, debt recovery, money-laundering and embezzlement cases against him. Most of the loans given to him have allegedly been “laundered” to buy assets abroad.

New Delhi had already told London that it had a “legitimate” case against Mallya and asserted that if an extradition request is honoured, it would show British “sensitivity towards our concerns”. Having said that, the defendant will have the right to appeal to the higher courts against any decision of the apex court.

Indian authorities have charged Mallya with criminal conspiracy, dishonesty and corruption, following series of investigations. The Modi government is keen to secure Mallya’s return to India; where they hope his criminal prosecution will send a warning sign to other big-ticket defaulters, as part of “crusade against corruption and crony capitalism.” Mallya is just a small fish. There are sharks who owe banks in excess of Rs 20,000 crore and no one knows who the promoters of these companies are.

If and when the 61-year old “defaulter” is extradited, it’s anybody’s guess how long our legal process will take to try him. Still, Mallya comes under English jurisdiction, as he holds “Indefinite leave to remain in the UK”.

India, earlier, gave names of 57 suspects hiding in the UK and the latter gave a list of 17 suspects they wanted extradited from India. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart, Theresa May committed for increased cooperation to facilitate extradition requests from both sides under the Mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) or Letter Rogatory were issued.

‘No punishment for me, I am a damn celebrity’

Remember, India has not had much luck in extradition cases in the UK. The prominent refusal of Lalit Modi is a case in point. India’s request for his extradition was denied by the British courts after Modi argued that he was being unfairly victimised as part of a political vendetta and that the Indian courts would not give him a fair hearing.

Aren’t white-collar crimes committed by celebrities still treated as peccadilloes? Spend a few minutes researching the sentences politicians, film stars and celebrities receive for the same crimes committed by the common man, and it is clear that celebrities “get away” with more crime.

The GOI has already complied with all the “extradition” procedures.  Does Mallya have enough legal evidence to show that he has not laundered the funds?  Will he be brought as a prisoner? Whether the liquor baron would actually be extradited from London is the billion-dollar question. After all, “some are more equal!”

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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