Beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya must be extradited from the United Kingdom to India to stand trial on charges of committing huge bank frauds, a London court ruled on Monday, saying there was no evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated.
"The criticism made of the possible effect of the considerable media attention which would attend a prosecution of Mallya is not significant enough for this court to find he would not have a fair trial," Westminster Magistrates' Court Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot said.
"There is insufficient evidence for this court to find that he will not be tried by a competent and fair court," the court said.
The judge also noted that any suggestion that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) courts in India were too "pliable" when it came to CBI cases "is not borne out by reliable evidence".
Arbuthnot, a senior district judge, said she accepted the Indian government's contention that because Mallya had such a high profile, his trial would be under great scrutiny.
"I find that Mallya will be able to raise with the court any overly prejudicial publicity... It will not be a trial by politicians. Courts are used to dealing with high profile cases which are accompanied by often ill-advised political commentary.
"I do not accept that the courts in India are there to do what the politicians tell them to do. As I have already said, the court will be under great scrutiny. I do not find any international consensus which would enable me to find that the judges in India are corrupt."
Referring to defence argument that there was abuse of legal process, the London judge said: "There is no evidence that the prosecution is politically motivated... I find no grounds for finding an abuse of process."
The judge said she was sending Mallya's case to the Home Secretary of State for a decision to be taken on whether to order his extradition.
The court ruling came six days after British national and middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, Christian Michael, was extradited to India after his arrest in Dubai.
Mallya fled India in March 2016 but he has repeatedly denied fleeing the country and said he was ready to pay back the money he owed to Indian banks.
Earlier, before appearing in the court, Mallya told reporters: "Whatever the judgement, my legal team will review the judgement if required and take appropriate steps thereafter."
He said he offered to repay the public sector banks and employees what he owed.
"But that has nothing to do with this extradition decision, this is a completely separate matter."
Asked whether his offer of repaying the banks were genuine, he said: "There is nothing genuine or ingenuine. The offer has been made before a court of law, nobody disrespects the court of law by making bogus offers."
He also said that his assets have been attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on their own admission, so they cannot be bogus assets.
"Today, those very same assets are before the court. The ED and the banks are fighting over the same assets. Same assets have a value that is more than enough to pay everybody and that is exactly what I am focusing on," he said.
Welcoming the London court decision, the CBI officials in New Delhi hoped to bring Mallya back to India soon and said that the agency was always strong on facts and legally it was confident while pursuing the extradition process.
Proceedings are on in the Mumbai Special Court against Mallya under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
Kingfisher began defaulting on loans in 2009-10.
Late in 2017, India filed extradition proceedings against Mallya which he has contested. He is currently on bail in London.
On June 22, the ED had moved the Special PMLA Court to declare Mallya a "fugitive economic offender" and confiscate all his properties, estimated at more than Rs 12,000 crore, making it the first such case of its kind under the new FEOA (Fugitive Economic Offender Act) law.
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