Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya won the right to challenge extradition to his home country, at a hearing where he said he’s been turned into “the personification of all of India’s financial ills” and risks being held in a rat-infested, overcrowded jail cell.
Mallya, the former billionaire who was known as the “King of Good Times” in India, is fighting extradition on fraud charges. He said in court filings for the latest hearing in his extradition battle on Tuesday that he’s been “deliberately set up as the lightning rod of public anger at India’s bad debts” in a process encouraged by leading politicians in the country.
Judges said Mallya could appeal on the grounds that it’s “reasonably arguable” that a lower court judge had wrongly concluded that he had a case to answer, a lawyer for Mallya said. The court dismissed Mallya’s attempt to appeal on other grounds, including that his prosecution in India is politically motivated.
There’s a “real risk” that political pressures “will undermine the fairness of any trial,” Mallya’s lawyers said in court filings for Tuesday’s hearing.
If sent to India, he’d be held in Barrack 12 of Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, which has seven or eight people in cells designed for six, Mallya said in his filings, citing an Indian lawyer who’s visited the wing. That lawyer said the wing is “unbearably hot in the summer,” doesn’t have enough light for reading and has dust and noise pollution from a large slum area nearby, Mallya argued in his filings. Rats and insects “are visible and have ‘free run in the cells,”’ it said.
The U.K. and Indian governments weren’t represented at Tuesday’s hearing. The London-based High Commission of India didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Mallya was arrested in London in April 2017 after a consortium of 17 banks accused him of willfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) in debt accumulated by his Kingfisher Airlines -- a full-service carrier he founded in 2005 and shut down seven years later. A willful defaulter is someone who refuses to repay loans despite having the means to do so.
Lower court judge Emma Arbuthnot largely rejected Mallya’s arguments that the case was politically motivated when she ruled in December that he could be sent to India.