Vijay Mallya arrested in London; extradition hearing begins

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FILE PHOTO: Force India team principal Vijay Mallya waves in the paddock during the third practice session of the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/File Photo

Flamboyant Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, pursued by authorities over unpaid loans tied to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, was arrested in London on Tuesday, with Indian television channels saying he was later given bail.

Mallya, 61, was arrested on behalf of the Indian authorities over accusations of fraud and will be presented in Westminster Magistrates’ Court later on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Indian TV channels said Mallya had already been granted bail, with ET Now citing an unnamed Mallya lawyer. Reuters could not immediately confirm his status.

“Extradition hearing in court started today as expected,” Mallya said in a message on social network Twitter, downplaying what he called “usual Indian media hype.”

India had asked Britain to extradite Mallya to face trial after the liquor and aviation tycoon fled there last March after banks sued to recover about $1.4 billion that Indian authorities say Kingfisher owes.

Mallya has repeatedly dismissed the charges against him and defended himself in messages from his personal Twitter account. On Jan. 28 he said that “not one rupee was misused”.

India and Britain have a mixed record on extradition, say legal experts. Some cases have collapsed when evidence against the defendant fell short of the standard of “dual criminality”, or actions that amount to a crime in both countries.

“The court usually focuses on whether there is sufficient criminality to extradite someone,” said Andrew Smith, a partner at London law firm Corker Binning. “India needs to show a prima facie evidential case against this man.”

The criminal case against Mallya was only filed this year. If his legal team argues persuasively that the charges were filed as an act of revenge, that might sway the court in his favor, legal experts say.

Mallya co-owns the Force India Formula One team. He has a base in London as well as a country home bought from the father of triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

He attended just one of 21 races last year, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and watched the rest from a ‘control room’ in his country mansion.

India’s top brewer, United Breweries, part-owned by global giant Heineken, this year asked Mallya, its non-executive chairman, to step down from the board, following a regulatory order.

India’s capital markets regulator has also barred Mallya from participating in the securities market for having allegedly diverted funds from whiskey maker United Spirits.

Scotland Yard arrested Mallya, Indian television channel CNN News18 said, adding that a team of Indian law enforcement officials would visit London to begin work on his extradition.

India’s foreign ministry and the federal police, the Central Bureau of Investigation, were not immediately available for comment.