Keep dreaming about a billion pounds: Vijay Mallya taunts Indian govt

Vijay Mallya, the fugitive liquor baron sought by India for defaulting on several bank loans amounting to nearly Rs 9,000 crore, Tuesday claimed he has “enough evidence” to plead his case and taunted authorities saying, “you can keep dreaming about a billion pounds”.

“I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them,” said the 61­year­old flamboyant boss of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines, who appeared before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court here for the hearing of an extradition case against him. Chief magistrate Emma Louise Arbuthnot granted bail to Mallya until December 4. The next hearing has been set for July 6.

Evidence will speak: Mallya

“I have not eluded any court… I have enough evidence to prove my case,” Mallya told reporters outside the court. When asked whether he had diverted funds to the Indian Premier League team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) he previously owned, Mallya said, “I have not diverted…” “I don’t make statements to the media because anything I say is twisted. There is enough evidence, that will speak,” said Mallya, who was accompanied to court by his son Siddharth Mallya, a woman companion and a small group of supporters.

Mallya was arrested by Scotland Yard in April and has been out on bail, which was further extended until December 4 ­ also tentatively fixed as the final date of hearing in the case. Vijay Mallya gets bail; says enough evidence to prove his case Mallya claimed that no loans were diverted anywhere.

“You can keep dreaming about a billion pounds; you cannot prove anything without facts,” Mallya told reporters. Arbuthnot, who presided over what is referred to as a “case management hearing”, said, “Make sure you do not break any conditions of your bail. If you do so, you will be back in custody.” Mallya’s defense team, which is being led by the firm Boutique Law LLP, said a second extradition request is expected from the Indian government. In the dock at Court Room 3 of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mallya spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth ­ 18 December, 1955.

‘A battle to get into court’

The judge set July 6 as the next hearing date for further case management matters but Mallya was exempted from attending that hearing after his defense team claimed he was “swarmed by media cameras” on his entry to the court Tuesday.

“It was literally a battle to get into court,” said Mallya’s lawyer barrister Ben Watson. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), represented by Aaron Watkins, presented the case in court on behalf of the Indian authorities and pushed for a final hearing date in December.

Mallya’s defense team wanted a final hearing date in March or April 2018, claiming they are yet to receive the “final evidence” from the Indian authorities and also believe a second extradition request is coming.

The second request is believed to be related to the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) case against Mallya. CPS argued that the government of India will deal responsibly with any future extradition request and that a conclusion of the current case by December was preferable. The judge settled on December 4 as the final hearing date.

Media frenzy

Mallya also slammed the media for its “frenzy”. “I go to cheer India in a cricket match and it becomes a media frenzy. It’s better I don’t say anything,” he said, adding that two people, in a drunken state, called him a “thief” outside the stadium.

“There were many who wished me well.” Last week, Mallya was welcomed with chants of “chor, chor” by Indian cricket fans as he arrived to watch the India vs South Africa Champions Trophy match at The Oval cricket ground in London.

Earlier, he had caused a stir by his attendance at the India vs Pakistan match in Birmingham after which he had declared on Twitter that he would be attending all India matches in the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy. Mallya, who is wanted in India for Kingfisher Airlines’ default on loans worth nearly Rs 9,000 crore, has been in the UK since March 2016 and was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant on April 18. He was released on conditional bail a few hours later after providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds.

The Extradition Treaty

If the district judge rules in favor of extradition at the end of the trial, the UK home secretary must order Mallya’s extradition within two months of the appropriate day. However, the case can go through a series of appeals before arriving at a conclusion.

India and the UK have an Extradition Treaty, signed in 1992, but so far only one extradition has taken place under the arrangement ­ Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, who was sent back to India last October to face trial in connection with his involvement in the post­Godhra riots of 2002. However, unlike Mallya, he had submitted to the extradition order without legal challenge.

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