The extradition of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya from the UK is linked to the completion of a legal process that cannot be circumvented though Britain appreciates the urgency attached to such cases, British high commissioner Alex Ellis said on Friday.
The UK home secretary signed off on Mallya’s extradition to India more than two years ago but his return to India has been held up because of secret legal proceedings, according to the British government. Mallya is learnt to have applied for asylum in the UK.
Asked about Mallya’s case at his first news briefing since taking over as the British envoy last month, Ellis said Britain appreciates the “urgency and importance” attached to such matters and the “desire to get people who are accused of corruption back to India”.
Extradition is a mix of administrative and judicial processes and the UK home secretary “has done what the home secretary needs to do from the executive’s point of view in the case of Vijay Mallya but that is part of a judicial process and our courts work their way through those processes,” Ellis said.
“There’s a process going on…it’s a legal process and that has to be followed through, can’t short-cut that. That’s why you have legal processes,” he said.
The 65-year-old businessman is wanted in India to face charges of defrauding a consortium of banks of more than a billion dollars in relation to the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines in 2013.
In response to another question, Ellis said the UK hopes the case of Christian Michel, a British national accused of being the middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, would be resolved as speedily as possible.
Michel has been held in India since December 2018 after he was extradited from the United Arab Emirates. Reports have suggested that a report by UN experts, which is set to be released soon, has concluded that Michel was arbitrarily detained and should be immediately released.
Ellis said the UK is doing everything necessary in a consular case involving a British national, including supporting Michel and providing consular assistance to his family.
“We hope and want to have…a swift resolution of the case. It’s for the Indian judicial process to work out what should happen. That’s not our business, but obviously we want things to move as quickly as they can,” he said.
The British envoy also acknowledged that discussions were going on between UK-based Cairn Energy and the Indian government after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague last year awarded the firm $1.2 billion in damages in a retrospective taxation case.
“There’s been a ruling made by the arbitration panel, an unanimous ruling. Now we have to see what happens next and…we encourage both parties to reach a swift settlement,” Ellis said.
Ellis noted that India has “huge ambitions about infrastructure and the transformation which needs to take place in the country”, and pointed out that such a goal requires both domestic and foreign capital, and “creating an environment in which foreign capital comes to the country”.
People familiar with developments said recently that the Indian government’s tax amnesty scheme, Vivad Se Vishwas, is a viable option within the legal framework for amicably resolving retrospective tax litigation with two foreign firms, Cairn Energy and Vodafone Group that together involve a sum of at least ₹30,000 crore.