India today said embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s defence team is raising issues to delay his extradition from the UK to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to Rs 9,000 crores. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is in the UK for talks on security issues, said the Indian government is confident about its evidence in the case and satisfied with the cooperation from the UK side on extradition matters. “The defence lawyers are just raising issues to delay matters…We have done all the homework and whatever was necessary from our side. The authorities in the UK have responded positively and we are working in tandem on all pending extradition cases,” Rijiju told reporters at a briefing here. India has raised matters regarding 14 pending extradition cases, including that of Gujarat attacks accused Tiger Hanif, as well as 12 extradition requests from the UK side. “There is cooperation from both ends and we have expressed our gratitude to the UK government for their positive attitude during my talks with security minister Ben Wallace,” Rijiju said.
The UK judge presiding over the extradition trial of Mallya yesterday granted bail to the liquor baron till April 2. The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against the tycoon, who has been based in the UK since he left India in March, 2016. Mallya was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant in April, 2017 and has been out on bail on a bond worth 650,000 pounds. Rijiju also confirmed that two memoranda of understanding (MoU) on criminal record sharing and illegal migrant returns agreement have also been initialed, which will be formally signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit in April.
During his talks with newly-appointed UK minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes, Rijiju said he was able to lay the groundwork for Modi’s visit and “open up an area where we used to find difficulty” relating to visa issues for Indian students and professionals. “We are in favour of smooth and legal migration and discourage all kinds of illegal migration,” he said, adding that he had also raised the issue of action against British citizens of Indian-origin guilty of abandoning wives in India.
Rijiju also expressed the Indian government’s concern over certain “fringe elements” from the British Sikh and Kashmiri communities raising separatist issues on the UK soil. “The response has been very positive on all matters we raised. The UK and India are two big democracies and need to have full faith in each other’s systems,” he said.
India has also stressed its demand for visa-free access to diplomatic passport holders, which has been extended to India by all major countries other than the UK. The senior BJP leader will hold talks with Brandon Lewis – the newly-appointed chairman of the Conservative Party later today and on Saturday he will join commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu to address the Indian diaspora at an event organised by the Indian High Commission in London.