India govt’s extradition efforts yield limited results in 2021

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As 2021 draws to a close, the Narendra Modi governments efforts to extradite Indian businessmen from Britain for alleged fraud against Indian banks are yet to materialise.

The failed deportation of Lieutenant (Retd) Ravi Shankaran, who was accused of stealing and selling classified information from the Indian Navy’s war room, was not appealed against.

Vijay Mallya, chairman of the now closed Kingfisher Airlines, who was ordered to be extradited by the British judiciary in 2019, is yet to be sent to India. Similarly, diamantaire Nirav Modi continues to fight a legal battle to avoid deportation. Unlike Mallya, though, he has been held in custody at south London’s Wandworth prison since his arrest in 2019.

India and the UK had signed an extradition treaty in 1992. This was ratified the following year and has been in force since. Yet, only two individuals – one of them voluntarily – have been returned to India.

British solicitors Gherson’s comment is: “Chief among these bars to extradition has been the (UK) Court’s obligation to ensure that extradition would be incompatible with the rights of an individual under the European Convention on Human Rights, codified in English law with the passing of the Human Rights Act, 1998.”

London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court had ordered Mallya’s extradition and this was upheld by the High Court of England. Gherson observes: “It has been widely reported that Mallya has, however, lodged an asylum claim, which has resulted in the extradition request being put on hold for the time being.”

The High Court of England, which earlier this year declared Mallya bankrupt at the instance of creditor Indian banks, will hear an appeal from him on the matter in the New Year.

Legal circles in the British capital believe he is bound to bring to the notice of the court that assets seized from him by Indian investigators have been sold and money owed to the banks have been received by them.

On July 26 last, Mallya had tweeted: “ED attached my assets worth (Rs) 14K crore at behest of Govt Banks against debt of (Rs) 6.2K crore. They restore assets to Banks who recover (Rs) 9K crore in cash and retain security over (Rs) 5K crore more. Banks ask Court to make me Bankrupt as they may have to return money to the ED. Incredible.”

Three days later, he posted on Twitter an Indian newspaper clipping which reported: “IDBI Bank said that it has recovered the entire dues pertaining to Kingfisher Airlines, which helped the lender report a 318 per cent jump in net profit for the quarter ended June 2021.”

In effect, the same court, which in a ruling prior to the bankruptcy order had expressed confidence that Mallya would be able to settle his debt, may now need to take into account the fact that the banks have actually recovered their lending. In other words, if it reverses its judgement, this could potentially have an impact on the extradition verdict as well.

Gherson points out the conclusion of the judge at the Westminster Court was based on the Indian government contending that loans from Indian banks “were premised on a conspiracy to commit fraud by way of fraudulent misrepresentation”.

The fact is, Indian investigators have failed to establish a case in this respect against the then chairman and senior executives of IDBI Bank, who were named as being co-conspirators with Mallya.

Nirav Modi, who too was ordered to be extradited, appealed against this on the grounds that his mental health is such that he is a suicide risk. This was heard on December 14 last. “He is at high risk of suicide already and his condition is likely to deteriorate further in Mumbai,” Modi’s barrister Edward Fitzgerald argued.

If Nirav Modi loses his appeal, he could still seek reviews at either the UK’s Supreme Court, or the European Court of Human Rights. Mallya did not exercise these options.

Significantly, the cases against them were registered when Britain was still a member state of the European Union (EU) and came under EU laws.

In chasing high-profile, headline-making alleged fugitives for justice, the Government of India may have neglected the serious issue of pilferage of sensitive documents from the Indian Navy’s war room by Shankaran.

The extradition request in this connection was rejected by the High Court of England in 2014. If there was no scope of an appeal, this does not appear to have been adequately explained. One newspaper claimed Shankaran earned a whopping sum from selling the stolen papers to armaments firms and dealers. The accused, said to be residing in London, could not be reached for a comment.

20211224-104204

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