TYCOON’S DEFENCE ARGUES POLITICAL BIAS AT INDIA EXTRADITION HEARING IN THE UK

THE Indian government’s fraud case against ty­coon Vijay Mallya is baseless and politically moti­vated, his defence lawyer told a London court on Tuesday (12), as she battled to prevent his extradi­tion to his home country.

Mallya, who lives in Britain, stands accused in India of fraudulently palming off losses from his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines onto banks by taking out loans he had no intention of repaying.

His defence team argue that he is being used as a scapegoat by Indian politicians of all stripes to de­flect public anger at the accumulation of bad debts by state-owned banks.

The 61-year-old, nicknamed “the King of Good Times” after the slogan on bottles of one of his pre­mium beers and his partying lifestyle, had business interests ranging from aviation to liquor.

He is also the co-owner of Formula One motor racing team Force India.

The case against him centres on a series of loans Kingfisher obtained from Indian banks, especially state-owned lender IDBI. The banks want to recover a total of about $1.4 billion (£1bn) that the state says the defunct airline owes.

Mallya’s British defence lawyer, Clare Montgom­ery, told Westminster magistrates court that India had made a series of serious allegations against her client and others that did not have “a shred of evi­dence” to back them up.

She also said the Indian government’s case revealed a “shocking” lack of appreciation of how compa­nies function and of basic realities such as the effects of incorporation and the rights of shareholders.

“Economically and legally, it is impossible to palm off losses onto banks by borrowing to pass on the cost of failure,” she said.

Montgomery said she would call witnesses later in the two-week hearing to give evidence on what she called the “political ramifications” of the case.

She accused several Indian parties, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of “making po­litical capital from the Mallya case on the assump­tion there was a fraud”.

Montgomery said India’s Central Bureau of Inves­tigation (CBI), which is prosecuting the case, had a “long and inglorious history of being politically mo­tivated in the cases it brings”.