Government's move to hire UK arbitrator follows poor track record of India in extraditing offenders from Britain
The government is planning to get on board a UK-based “independent arbitrator” to appear on behalf of Indian authorities and put up a strong case of extradition against absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya, an Enforcement Directorate (ED) official said.
The move comes in view of India’s past experiences with extradition cases and long-drawn legal processes.
Mallya was briefly arrested in London on Tuesday over accusations of fraud by Indian probe agencies and presented before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court for an extradition hearing. He was released on bail a few hours later.
The 61-year-old businessman had fled India last year after banks started seeking his arrest over unpaid loans tied to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
“The person who will represent the case should be well-versed with the judicial system of the country where the matter will be heard. The court of law differs from country to country, so it is essential that the representative knows the law and legal remedies of that country,” said the official cited above.
Sources said there were at least a dozen instances in the past when Indian agencies lost cases due to lack of understanding of the State laws.
Some officials said the chances of Mallya being extradited anytime soon were less than 30 per cent, considering the “civil” nature of charges against him. He can seek relief on the grounds that he is not one among the “big loan defaulters”.
Loan default cannot be a major factor to extradite any person, another official of the enforcement agency said.
Failed extradition attempts in the past can be attributed to lack of paperwork and strong evidence presented in court. However, in this case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED, which are probing the matter, are focusing on every minute detail.
CBI officials, along with a panel of senior lawyers, are said to be going to London with all evidence to build a watertight case against Mallya.
Despite this, Mallya have several legal options for appeal. “According to treaties between the two countries as well as the Britain’s Extradition Act, there are certain clauses on which extradition request can be dismissed,” said an ED lawyer.
The British court can refuse the extradition if it is proven to be political, or a violation of human rights. The court can also ask why it took six to seven years for Indian agencies and banks to take action against him.
Sources said it would take at least 15-20 hearings for the primary court at Westminster to arrive at a conclusion and even if Mallya lost the case, he has the option of moving to higher courts in Britain itself.
It has learnt that ED has so far attached Mallya’s assets worth over Rs 6,000 crore under anti-money laundering laws.
Photograph: Rupak De Choudhuri/Reuters