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India’s fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, the nation’s ‘poster boy’ of bank defaults, said on Tuesday he was finally ready to pay his debts.
Mallya was in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, which was hearing his long-running extradition case. The Indian government wants to bring him back to face trial over charges that he defrauded a consortium of 13 Indian banks to the tune of Rs 90 billion (US$1.31 billion).
“I have not applied for any clemency plea [from Karnataka High Court in India]. But I am ready to settle my dues,” said the embattled businessman after the London court extended bail previously granted earlier this year, reported Indian news agency ANI.
Mallya released a statement from London on June 26 saying he had petitioned the Karnataka High Court to let him sell the assets of United Breweries Holding Ltd under judicial supervision. He claimed that this would generate Rs 139 billion that could be used for the repayment of creditors.
On Tuesday, Mallya and the Indian government were supposed to present final submissions in the extradition case at the London court.
However, the judge said she could only hear short submissions. Later court discussions centered upon the conditions at Barrack 12 of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail where the Indian government intends to detain Mallya if he is extradited to India.
Mallya’s defense argued that the erstwhile boss of Kingfisher Airlines would not face a fair trial in India and would also suffer “inhuman” conditions in the Arthur Road jail, ANI reported. He based his argument on a 2018 report by India’s National Human Rights Commission, which had raised concerns about overcrowding and even about the structural integrity of the largest jail in the financial capital.
Judge Emma Arbuthnot sought assurances from the Indian authorities regarding the defense counsel’s concerns, in response to which the Indian government said it would make sure Mallya is kept in humane conditions. The government elaborated on the facilities and comforts that would be available to Mallya, saying that they included a private toilet, natural light, adequate sanitation and good bedding. They pointed out that Barrack 12 is not overcrowded as it reportedly currently houses only six inmates. The Indian government also assured the court that legal proceedings against Mallya would be expedited.
However, the judge did not find the photographs of Barrack 12 submitted by the Indian authorities to be acceptable, and requested that a video be provided.
A ruling in the case is expected later this year. The ruling will be able to be appealed.
Mallya has previously alleged that the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which are handling his fraud case in India, have ‘political motivation’ beyond clearing debts to public sector banks. He also denied that he willfully defaulted on loans.
He claims to have made two settlement offers to the state-run banks after proceedings were filed by them in the Supreme Court in 2016. Both of the offers were rejected, the Press Trust of India reported.
In July, A UK High Court judge issued an enforcement order in favor of the consortium of 13 Indian banks and permitted the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya’s properties in Hertfordshire. The order also upheld an Indian court’s ruling that the banks were entitled to recover funds. Mallya applied to the Court of Appeal seeking permission to appeal against the order; the application remains pending.