LONDON: Fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya’s barrister confirmed for the first time in a British court that the 65-year-old has applied for asylum, which is why he has not been sent back to India despite the UK courts having upheld India’s extradition request to send him back in May 2020 to face charges of fraud by false representation, conspiracy to defraud, and laundering money.
Philip Marshall QC, representing Mallya in his bankruptcy proceedings in the high court — which have been brought by the consortium of Indian banks to whom Mallya owes £1.05 billion (Rs 10,467 crore) — on Friday, whilst making an application for £2.8 million (about Rs 28 crore) from the court funds office to fund Mallya’s legal fees and living expenses, was asked by deputy insolvency and companies court judge Barnett what the outcome of Mallya’s extradition proceedings were.
Marshall replied: “The extradition request was upheld. He is still here because there is another route. You can apply to the secretary of state for a status, meaning you won’t go back. This is a historic route.” He also said: “Were Mallya to leave the jurisdiction it would undermine the whole point of the bankruptcy proceedings and make it more difficult for the trustee to carry out enquiries and his resistance to extradition and costs incurred are beneficial to the estate.”
It is widely thought that Tiger Hanif — accused of being the mastermind of the 1993 Surat bomb blasts — was granted asylum, which led to his extradition to India being reversed in 2019. He had exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK courts in 2013 and was due to be extradited, but, like Mallya, never went back. A decision was later made by the home secretray to withdraw the order for his extradition.
On September 11, 2020 the bankruptcy petitioners and Mallya entered into a consent order whereby the net proceeds of sale of property in France worth €3.27 million (about Rs 29 crore) — ultimately owned by Mallya — were paid into the court funds office.
Mallya was seeking on Friday £2.79 million from that pot to pay for his bankruptcy legal fees in the UK and the legal fees of his extradition case — including the Crown Prosecution Service costs — as well as all his cases in India, and his monthly £22,500 (approximately Rs 22 lakh) living expenses for six months. The court heard he was seeking legal fees in India amounting to approximately £1.8 million (about Rs 18 crore). These include the fugitive economic offender proceedings brought by the Indian government, which he is challenging, as well as the 11% compound interest on the principal debt which he is challenging, and also his settlement proposal in the Supreme Court of India.
He also sought £127,818 (about Rs 1.3 crore) to pay Boutique Law for legal fees in respect of his extradition proceedings. The court heard that the costs order against him to pay for the Crown Prosecution Service legal fees had already been paid as otherwise he would have been imprisoned. There are also fees in the Diageo case, the court heard.
The court also heard that a close relative of Mallya’s has recently died of Covid-19, inhibiting his ability to give instructions, and that he earns £5,000 (almost Rs 5 lakh) a month after losing his consultancy income of £62,500 (Rs 62 lakh) per month with the Racing Point F1 Team in October 2020. Apart from the sale of the French mansion he only has £250,000 (Rs 2.5 crore) in a bank account that is subject to a third party debt order.
Tony Beswetherick, representing the banks, opposed his application on the basis it would totally deplete the funds held for the benefit of the creditors and on the basis that Mallya had other assets, namely two yachts in storage in Southampton, cars in storage in France, and almost £1.5 million (about Rs 15 crore) owed to him by various Mallya family trusts.
The court heard that in addition to the petitioners’ debt, Mallya owes other creditors £2.5 million (Rs 25 crore) and has a further supporting creditor owed £2.3 million (about Rs 23 crore). Barnett reserved judgment.