Vijay Mallya extradition delayed over ‘confidential’ proceedings: U.K. envoy

November 11, 2020 09:31 AM

Six months after fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya lost his last appeal against extradition in British courts, Acting British High Commissioner Jan Thompson says it hasn’t yet “resolved” all the legal issues surrounding his return to India.

“There is a further legal issue that needs resolving before we would be in a position to extradite Mr. Mallya. The extradition has been ordered some time ago. It’s a legal case, so it is impossible for me to comment. But the extradition cannot take place before that legal issue is resolved,” she told journalists here on Tuesday on the recent India-U.K. bilateral talks.

Ms. Thompson called the legal issue in question a “confidential” matter and refused to comment on how long it would take to resolve. “But I can say we are trying to resolve this issue as quickly as we can,” she said.

Ms. Thompson called the legal issue in question a “confidential” matter and refused to comment on how long it would take to resolve. “But I can say we are trying to resolve this issue as quickly as we can,” she said.

Shringla’s London meetings

The delay over the return of Mallya to India was raised last week by Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla during his meetings with Minister of State for South Asia in the British Foreign and Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Tariq Ahmad, as well as Home Secretary Priti Patel when he met them in London. Mr. Shringla said that he had “strongly underlined” India’s interest in seeing the “early and expeditious” return of Mallya and jewellery businessman Nirav Modi, who is also a fugitive and an economic offender.

Mallya, former chief of now-bankrupt Kingfisher Airlines, has been in the U.K. since 2016, when he was declared an economic offender by the Modi government on charges of loan and tax evasion, and fraud. The former Member of Parliament proclaimed in court he would pay his outstanding dues, and also pleaded that to return to Indian prison would subject him to “human rights violations”. But the U.K. magistrate decided in December 2018 that he should be extradited to India in order to face the charges here. His appeal was dismissed by the U.K. High Court in April 2020, and another application to appeal in the U.K. Supreme Court was dismissed in May. Since then, officials have indicated that Mallya’s extradition was held up as he had filed a plea for asylum, linked to the Coronavirus pandemic, under British law.

In June, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that it had specifically “requested the U.K. side not to consider his asylum [plea]” if Mallya requested it. At the time, the British High Commission had given an assurance that it was attempting to resolve the situation at the earliest. On October 29, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the two sides remained “in contact” on the issue but had no update. And on November 2, the Indian Supreme Court gave the Union government six weeks to file a status report on the progress made in extraditing the businessman, asking the government to explain what the “secret and confidential” issue with his return is.

Ms. Thompson said India-U.K. bilateral talks had gone “very well” on a wide range of issues, including cooperation on the Indo-Pacific, boosting trade ties through talks on a Free Trade Agreement, U.K.’s new visa system, which is expected to help more skilled Indian professionals enter it, as well as expected visits to India by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

LTTE issue
Sources said India had also raised its concern over the decision of the “Proscribed Organisation Appeals Commission” (POAC) in the U.K. to reverse its ban on the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), which remains a banned terror organisation in India charged with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and other terror attacks. The Sri Lankan government has also made an appeal to the British government to rethink the decision

When asked, Ms. Thompson said that while she couldn’t confirm “details of individual discussions”, the U.K. and India had discussed this “kind of issue” in a number of formats already, but wouldn’t comment on whether the U.K. would reconsider the reversal of the LTTE ban.


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