Vijay Mallya isn’t missing India; but banks he made bakras of will miss him for a long time to come

"There’s nothing to miss (in India)," said Vijay Mallya, former liquor king, boss of the grounded airline, Kingfisher and a man “in forced exile” for defaulting some Rs 9,000 crore to Indian banks, to Reuters.

Most members of his immediate family is in the UK or other foreign countries, said the 61-year-old to the agency at the British Grand Prix. "All my immediate family is either in England or the US. Nobody in India at all. As far as my step-siblings are concerned, they are all UK citizens. So there’s nothing family-wise to miss." But, the Enforcement Directorate seems to be missing him lot and also the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the courts and a group of hapless banks who carelessly lent some Rs 7,000 crore to Kingfisher believing in his personal assurance and accepting unbelievably ridiculous collaterals such as Kingfisher brand and trademarks.

The ED has found, according to reports, Rs 1,300 crore through 13 shell companies in US, Ireland, Mauritius and France. The agency has made this indictment against Mallya in its charge sheet filed on 14 June in the money laundering case involving a loan of about Rs 900 crore from IDBI-KFA bank. The charge sheet has indicted eight other persons too for their alleged roles in the case. The noose is tightening; the investigative agencies are doing everything possible to strengthen the case against him before the next full hearing on India’s extradition request comes up before a UK court on 4 December. The charges the ED has raised, if it can be proved, certainly strengthens the case against the businessman who left India in March 2016.

Former Indian politician and billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya. AP/PTI

Former Indian politician and billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya. AP/PTI

The government seems to be better prepared for the 4 December hearing. It has asked the investigative agencies to gather strong evidences against the elusive Kingfisher boss. The ED findings must be seen in this context. If extradited, Mallya will be lodged in a high-security cell in Barrack number 12 at the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, the government has conveyed to the UK Crown Prosecution Services, according to this Hindu report.

The 4 December hearing is a now-or-never situation for the Indian government as it is the side that has failed to make its case and have a thin chance to go for an appeal. Mallya has had an upper hand in the battle so far. Despite the tremendous pressure from Indian investigative agencies, banks and courts, the billionaire hasn’t made any significant repayment to banks. In fact, Mallya has openly challenged them by responded to the media last month that You can keep dreaming about a billion pounds; you cannot prove anything without facts.

He is right; the facts are what counts before the court of law and presenting the evidence will be the biggest challenge before the investigators. Remember, it wasn’t just Mallya but even the UK courts too that mocked Indian investigators for their slow response. "Are Indians normally very prompt in their responses? They have taken six months so far and we haven't got any further forward in the past six weeks," Chief Magistrate at Westminster magistrates' court Emma Arbuthnot was quoted as saying in the reports. The absence of sufficient evidence from the Indian side would give Mallya an easy win. That would send a wrong signal to the world of crony promoters who have taken the banking system for a ride.

As this author said in an earlier piece, the December hearing is the only major chance for India to nail the elusive industrialist. But even then the question remains: Will the banks get their money back. The value of money at stake is growing every passing day with accumulated interest amount on the principal. Even if, say, India wins the extradition case in the December hearing, it will take at least a few months to a year to complete the proceedings. By the time India will have a decisive victory over Mallya and even if the country manages to bring him back and the courts send him to jail, recovery of the money will take a long time. Remember, banks have so far not managed to sell even Kingfisher House — a prime real estate property right in the middle of Mumbai —even after fifth auction. Also, lenders have settled for a much lower value while auctioning the Goa Kingfisher Villa compared to the market price.

The notion of banks making any recovery by auctioning the brand and trademarks of Kingfisher Airline is laughable. Only an entrepreneur in self-destruction mode would want to go for a brand that has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Banks now expect to recover only a fraction of the amount from Mallya, at the end of the long fight. They will miss the billionaire most for a long time to come.

Updated Date: Jul 14, 2017 15:29 PM

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