Scotland Yard arrested fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Tuesday morning and a London court granted him bail within hours, beginning the legal process to send him to India that may be drawn over months, if not years.
The 61-year-old flamboyant businessman, who called himself “The King of Good Times”, was the subject of an extradition request from India for alleged financial irregularities such a loan defaults and money laundering.
He left India for Britain on March 2 last year after a consortium of 17 banks accused him of defaulting on more than Rs 9,000 crores, mostly loans taken for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
He was arrested after he appeared at a central London police station on Tuesday morning. The Westminster magistrates court granted him bail on a £650,000 bond and set the next hearing of his case for May 17.
After getting bail, Mallya tweeted that the extradition hearing had begun in court “as expected”.
In New Delhi, foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the legal process for his extradition is underway in Britain. “The two governments are in touch in this context.”
But it would not be easy to extradite Mallya, according to senior advocates KTS Tulsi and Dushyant Dave, who were of the view that UK courts are very independent and do not grant extradition easily.
There are at least seven stages that an Indian extradition request needs to pass through before an individual resident in the UK is actually sent to India — the process includes the question of death penalty and human rights. In Mallya’s case, the first four stages have been completed.
An extradition treaty between the two countries came into effect from 1993.
India’s request was certified by the British home secretary on February 21 and sent to the Westminster court for issuing an arrest warrant.
His extradition figured in talks between finance minister Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister Theresa May in London this February.
The ruling BJP called Mallya’s arrest a confirmation of the Narendra Modi government’s relentless efforts and commitment to act against people accused of defrauding public resources.
The Modi government has made it clear that such people will be dealt with severely, party spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
The opposition Congress, however, asked why the government sought Mallya’s extradition, and not deportation which it said would have ensured his immediate custody to India.
“He is detained for an hour and is honourably granted bail and is defiant… Will it take another dozen years, 15 years, 30 years or our entire lifetime before Mallya is brought back?,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Britain has told India that it cannot deport but could consider an extradition request for Mallya, twice a member of the Rajya Sabha, who resigned from Parliament in May last year.
Deportation is basically done at the government level through an executive order after vetting the evidence produced by a country where the fugitive is required for any offence he or she may have committed there.
But extradition is a formal process wherein evidence against a fugitive is produced before the court for vetting. In extradition, a judicial decision is taken for sending back a fugitive to the country where he or she is required to face law. It is normally a longer process than deportation.
(With inputs from HTC New Delhi and agencies)