Mallya case and Bengali art movies

The UK Home Secretary clearing the extradition of the fugitive Indian businessman Vijay Mallya is, on the face of it, another victory for the Indian government.

But this was on the cards ever since a British court ruled that, in December 2018, Vijay Mallya could be extradited to India in order to answer for his alleged crimes, most of which relate to the default on thousands of crores worth of loans made to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

He also faces fraud, money laundering and violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act. The total amounted defaulted by the 62-year-old, who in Indian media is always preceded by sobriquet liquor baron, is pegged at Rs 9,000 crore.

Mallya, of course, has a window of around 14 days to appeal, and if even if he doesn’t win it, the legal process to bring him back to India may take at least six-seven months, legal experts say.

In that sense, the go-ahead for extradition can be used as good metrics by the Modi government and score a few political points during the poll campaign.

An issue with such corporate cases is that establishment of criminal intent is difficult. A loan default can also happen because of genuine business decisions going awry. Of course, this is the plank that high-profile businesspersons always try to stand on.

But in the case of Mallya, his compulsive flamboyant ways and fancy flaunting of riches which was almost obscene — the pink press is guilty of celebrating this aspect of him — even when his companies were floundering, could be taken as pointers to his irresponsibility and insensitivity.

His jet-setting ways, his array of fancy cars, his famed parties, his splurging on horse racing, motor racing, IPL team were all fine when the going was good. But the same now will be held against him. In that sense, he will be a victim of his own image that he assiduously painted.

Quite pointedly, one of the many cases that Mallya faces pertains to the mortgage he took from the Swiss banking giant UBS for his lavish London mansion. For the record, the case will be held in May 2019, and even if Mallya is extradited to India by that time, he will have to return to UK to face charges in the case.

A few of his cases have also a criminal conspiracy angle to them. Money laundering and round-tripping of United Spirits shares are among them.

It will also be interesting to see who all go down with Mallya in India. From getting loans for Kingfisher Airlines or while acquiring Air Deccan, Mallya has been slyly helped and insidiously guided by top honchos in politics and banking establishment. Such con jobs are never an one-man show.

But the thing about such financial fraud cases is that they progress slower than old Bengali art movies. For instance, the request for extradition to the UK government was given as back as February 2017. A formal approval, which can still be appealed upon, has come two years later.

Also, the accused always use every trick in the book and buy time. Many of them also end up attracting some strange sympathy because public memory is proverbially short.

It can be nobody’s case that the accused should not defend themselves. But if their first line of defence is going to be the loopholes in the law then there is something fundamentally wrong in the system of jurisprudence.