New Delhi: Britain has told India that it cannot deport liquor baron Vijay Mallya under its laws, but has acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations against him and has offered to help extradite him.
“The UK Government has informed us that under the 1971 Immigration Act, the UK does not require an individual to hold a valid passport in order to remain in the UK if they have extant leave to remain as long as their passport was valid when leave to remain or enter the UK was conferred,” the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
Vijay Mallya, whose passport was cancelled last month, is wanted in India for over a billion dollars in unpaid loans and New Delhi had formally requested London that he be deported.
Mr Mallya, 60, is also being investigated for money-laundering. He flew first class to London on March 2 this year as banks attempted to recover the money he owes them, and has ignored a series of orders to return to India to face investigations and his creditors.
“The UK acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations and is keen to assist Government of India. They have asked GoI (Government of India) to consider requesting mutual legal assistance or extradition,” the ministry said in its statement.
Vijay Mallya has denied any wrongdoing and has also made it clear that he has no plans to return from the UK, describing his status as “forced exile” and blaming banks for refusing several plans for repayment offered by him.
Last week, he pre-empted his expulsion from the Rajya Sabha or Upper House of Parliament by an ethics committee by sending a resignation letter from London.
“I don’t want my name and reputation to be further dragged in the mud and since recent events suggest that I will not get a fair trial or justice, I am hereby resigning as a member of the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect,” the tycoon wrote.
Vijay Mallya started Kingfisher Airlines in 2003, vowing to provide Indians luxury travel at affordable prices. By 2012, the carrier had collapsed in financial ruin.
It was only after banks asked the Supreme Court to stop Mr Mallya from leaving India that it emerged that he had flown to London. He insists that he is not absconding, because he has spoken via video-conference to a consortium of 18 banks on different occasions.
They have rejected various options provided by him for repaying their loans, arguing that he must negotiate with them in person, and increase the amount he is willing to offer as a first installment towards clearing his debt.
Details of what Mr Mallya owns abroad – including penthouses in the famous Trump Plaza in New York – have been disclosed by the Supreme Court to banks.
The Enforcement Directorate is looking at whether Mr Mallya used part of a loan to purchase properties abroad, an allegation he has denied. A Mumbai court has issued an arrest warrant for him linked to this charge.
Separately, the CBI is determining why and how banks, many of them state-run, supplied large loans with virtually no cover to Mr Mallya’s airline even after its financial crisis was in plain sight.