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Ex-billionaire Mallya fights extradition from UK for fraud

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Former Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya returned to a London court to fight extradition to his home country to face fraud and money laundering charges.

[LONDON] Former Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya returned to a London court to fight extradition to his home country to face fraud and money laundering charges.

The tycoon's lawyers said at a hearing Tuesday that a previous ruling to send him back to India ignored evidence and simply misunderstood the circumstances that ultimately led to the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines in 2012.

Mallya, who's known as the "King of Good Times" in India, was arrested in London in April 2017 after 17 banks accused him of willfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees (S$1.77 billion) in debt accumulated by Kingfisher Airlines - a full-service carrier he founded in 2005 and shut down seven years later. A willful defaulter refuses to repay loans despite having the means to do so.

"This isn't a ponzi scheme, it's an airline," Mallya's lawyer, Clare Montgomery, told the court. "Dr Mallya is not a fly-by-night figure, he's a man who's immensely wealthy."

The tycoon lost a bid to avoid extradition in a lower London court in 2018, but was granted permission to appeal. The Indian government describes the appeal as an "uphill battle" in written submissions and says Mallya must face trial in relation to "a very substantial allegation of dishonesty."

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The Magistrate who ordered his extradition two years ago "didn't look at all the evidence because, if she had done, she wouldn't have fallen into the multiple errors we respectfully say permeated" when she concluded that Kingfisher Airlines executives misrepresented its financial loss in 2009, Ms Montgomery said.

"Are you contesting that the Senior Magistrate didn't understand?" Judge Stephen Irwin asked.

"Yes I am," Ms Montgomery said. "It's not a question of error, but more a question of ignorance."

The government of India and Mallya didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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