Calling Vijay Mallya a 'bejewelled’ bodyguarded billionaire playboy, the Westminster Magistrates' Court Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot on Monday ordered the extradition of the businessman to India, on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.
The Indian government wants to bring criminal action against Mallya, 62, whose business interests have ranged from aviation to liquor, over Rs 9,000 crore in loans his defunct Kingfisher Airlines borrowed from Indian banks which the authorities argue he had no intention of repaying.
Mallya, who co-owned the Formula One motor racing team Force
India until it went into administration in July, has denied all wrongdoing and argued the case against him was politically motivated.
Judge Arbuthnot, England's chief magistrate, decided there was a prima facie case against Mallya, who moved to Britain in March 2016, and his human rights would not be infringed if he was extradited. Her ruling will now be passed to the interior minister who must also approve it.
AFP reported that further appeals are possible in the protracted legal battle over the Indian government's desire to bring the tycoon back to India to face legal action.
An extradition of Mallya would be a huge win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi months before an election, after opposition parties said the government had given a "free passage" to the business tycoon to flee, an accusation it denies.
Mallya has been on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year.
According to reports, Mallya will be lodged in one of the high-security barracks located in a two-storey building inside the prison complex, which also housed 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a prison official said.
In case of a medical emergency, Mallya can be treated at the dispensary located close to the barrack, where doctors and other staff are present to provide basic treatment to prisoners, a prisoner official had said.
The official said adequate medical facilities were available to treat prisoners in Arthur Road Jail, where Mallya would get full security cover as an undertrial prisoner and it was highly secured in accordance with international standards.
Mallya, before heading to the UK court for the verdict, said the offer to make the 100 percent repayment on the debts has been taken, confirming that the money offered is is related to extradition.
"I have offered to repay 100 per cent of the principal amount to them. Please take it," the flamboyant businessman had
"I did not borrow a single rupee. The borrower was Kingfisher Airlines. Money was lost due to a genuine and sad business failure. Being held as guarantor is not fraud," he said in his recent Twitter post on the issue.
He has contested his extradition on the grounds that the case against him is "politically motivated" and the loans he has been accused of defrauding on were sought to keep his now-defunct airline afloat.
"I have tweeted that I want to repay to the banks and my employees included. This has nothing to do with the judgement," Mallya said, adding that he wants to 'change the narrative' that he had stolen the money.
"My settlement offer is not related to the judgement due today." he said, before entering the court.
Mallya's defence team, led by Clare Montgomery, deposed a series of experts in an attempt to prove that the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines' alleged default of bank loans was the result of business failure rather than "dishonest" and "fraudulent" activity by its owner.
The court was also told that a consortium of Indian banks, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), rejected an offer by the liquor baron in early 2016 to pay back nearly 80 per cent of the principal loan amount owed to them.
On the judgement, he said before entering the court, "Whatever the judgement is, we will see and we will follow it.," adding that the assets have been attached by the authorities and they are not 'bogus'.
The central government has already conducted an
assessment of security cover given to prisoners in the Arthur Road Jail and its findings conveyed to the UK court. (With inputs from agencies)