As 2021 draws to a close, efforts by Narendra Modi’s government to extradite Indian businessmen from Britain for alleged fraud against Indian banks have yet to materialize.
The failed deportation of (retired) Lt. Ravi Shankaran, accused of stealing and selling classified information in the Indian Navy’s war room, has not been appealed.
Vijay Mallya, president of the now closed Kingfisher Airlines, which was extradited by the British justice in 2019, has not yet been sent to India. Likewise, diamond dealer Nirav Modi continues to wage a legal battle to avoid eviction. Unlike Mallya, however, he has been held at Wandworth Prison in south London since his arrest in 2019.
India and the United Kingdom signed an extradition treaty in 1992. It was ratified the following year and has been in force since. Yet only two people – one of them voluntarily – were returned to India.
The comment of British lawyers Gherson is as follows: “The main one of these barriers to extradition has been the obligation of the Court (United Kingdom) to ensure that extradition would be incompatible with the rights of an individual under of the European Convention on Human Rights, codified into English law with the adoption of the Human Rights Act, 1998. “
The Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London had ordered Mallya’s extradition, which was confirmed by the High Court of England. Gherson observes: “It has been widely reported that Mallya has, however, applied for asylum, which has resulted in the extradition request being suspended for the time being.
England’s High Court, which earlier this year declared Mallya bankrupt at the behest of Indian creditor banks, will hear an appeal from him on the issue over the New Year.
Legal circles in the British capital believe he is required to inform the court that the assets confiscated from him by Indian investigators have been sold and that the sums owed to the banks have been received by them.
On July 26, Mallya tweeted: “ED has attached my assets worth (Rs) 14,000 crore to the demand of government banks against a debt of (Rs) 6.2,000 crore. They return assets to banks which recover (Rs) 9,000 crore in cash and keep security on (Rs) 5K crore more. The banks are asking the court to put me into bankruptcy because they may have to return money to the emergency room. Incredible. “
Three days later, he posted an Indian newspaper clipping on Twitter which reported: “IDBI Bank said it had fully recovered Kingfisher Airlines dues, which helped the lender report a 318% increase in net income for the quarter ended June 2021.. “
Indeed, the same court, which in a decision prior to the bankruptcy order expressed confidence that Mallya would be able to settle her debt, may now need to take into account the fact that the banks did in fact collect their loans. In other words, if he reverses his judgment, it could also impact the extradition verdict.
Gherson points out that the Westminster Court judge’s conclusion was based on the Indian government claiming that Indian bank loans “were based on a conspiracy to commit fraud through fraudulent misrepresentation.”
The point is, Indian investigators have failed to establish a case in this regard against the then president and senior IDBI Bank officials, who have been named as co-conspirators with Mallya.
Nirav Modi, whose extradition has also been ordered, appealed on the grounds that his mental health is such that he is at risk of suicide. This was heard on December 14th. “He is already at high risk of suicide and his condition is likely to deteriorate further in Mumbai,” said Modi’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald.
If Nirav Modi loses his appeal, he could still seek reviews from either the UK 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 law.
By chasing high-profile suspected fugitives and making headlines, the Indian government may have overlooked the serious issue of Shankaran’s theft of sensitive documents from the Indian Navy’s war room.
The extradition request in this regard was rejected by the High Court of England in 2014. While there was no scope for appeal, this does not appear to have been sufficiently explained. One newspaper claimed that Shankaran had earned a colossal sum selling the stolen papers to companies and arms dealers. The accused, who is believed to be living in London, could not be reached for comment.
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