India to seek tycoon Mallya's extradition from Britain

11th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

India will seek to extradite indebted tycoon Vijay Mallya, the country's finance minister said on Wednesday, after Britain turned down its request to deport him.

Arun Jaitley told parliament that Britain had refused to deport Mallya, who left India owing $1.34 billion, because he entered the country on a valid passport, even though it was later revoked.

The 60-year-old beer baron, once dubbed the King of Good Times for his lavish lifestyle, is being chased by a group of lenders over unpaid loans made to his collapsed carrier, Kingfisher Airlines.

He faces a money-laundering probe by India's financial crimes agency.

"Their (UK authorities') procedures say that if his entry into the country was on a valid passport and later it got cancelled then that doesn't result in an automatic deportation," Jaitley told parliament.

"There is another legal procedure for extradition which will continue."

New Delhi revoked Mallya's diplomatic passport last month after he repeatedly failed to appear before investigators, and asked Britain to deport the tycoon, who left India on March 2.

His massive debt has become a symbol of Indian banks' vast volume of bad loans -- meaning in default or close to it -- seen as a threat to financial stability in Asia's third-largest economy.

In declining the request, the UK government cited the 1971 Immigration Act which does not require an individual to hold a valid passport to remain in the country if they entered on one, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said.

"At the same time, the UK acknowledges the seriousness of allegations and is keen to assist the government of India," Vikas Swarup said.

"They have asked (the) government of India to consider requesting mutual legal assistance or extradition."

An Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Mallya.

The Enforcement Directorate, India's financial crimes agency, has accused him of siphoning off money from his now-defunct Kingfisher airlines to buy property abroad -- a claim the company denies.

Critics say the Indian government has not done enough to tackle the issue of wealthy individuals such as Mallya, who obtain huge loans that they later fail to repay.

In an interview with the Financial Times last month, Mallya said he was prepared to settle millions of dollars owed to banks but had no plans to leave Britain.

A former MP, Mallya last week resigned from his seat in the parliament's upper house ahead of a likely expulsion over his huge debt defaults.

India and the United Kingdom signed an extradition treaty in 1993.

© 2016 AFP

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