Vijay Mallya could escape extradition through asylum route

If Mallya’s asylum application is ongoing or has been granted, he will not be extradited.

Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya. (Photo | PTI)
LONDON: Fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya could still get out of his extradition, notwithstanding the UK courts rejecting his appeals against sending him to India to face money laundering and fraud charges, by applying for asylum in Britain.

Karishma Vora, a London barrister who specialises in representing Indian parties in English law disputes, told TOI: “If he is well advised, he most certainly would have applied for asylum and if he has, this is not going to be revealed until the last minute. If Mallya’s asylum application is ongoing or has been granted, he will not be extradited."

She said asylum applications are initially made on paper and if rejected, there are various layers of appeal which can run on for years. They are civil proceedings that can go on in parallel to an extradition case, which is a criminal proceeding.

“Asylum is an excellent legal strategy and if you get it, it protects you. The CBI would not know he had done it,” Vora said.

Section 39(3) of the English Extradition Act 2003 says if “… the person has made an asylum claim.. the person must not be extradited in pursuance of the warrant before the asylum claim is finally determined… ”

“Only very few people in the Home Office would know about it as the hearings are confidential since genuine asylum seekers usually fear persecution and/or death if they are returned to their home country,” Vora said. “You cannot let the home country, in this case India, know that someone has applied for asylum. Mallya could apply for asylum at any stage, including right now, but an application after extradition is ordered is unlikely to have been granted. In my view, if he applied for asylum he would have done so a few years ago, when the extradition proceedings against him were just starting,” said Vora.

The development comes as it emerged on Sunday that Dawood Ibrahim aide Tiger Hanif, also known as Hanif Mohammed Umerji Patel, has had his extradition to India reversed. The UK Home Office told TOI that Hanif has had his extradition, which was ordered by the secretary of state in 2012 after being approved by the court, rejected in 2019 by Sajid Javid, former home secretary.

Vora said the current home secretary, Priti Patel, likewise has the power to block Mallya’s extradition to India but she felt it was “unlikely she would reverse what the English court system has held”.

“If Dr Mallya has had an asylum application rejected, he will be extradited, provided Priti Patel grants it,” Vora said.

Hanif had made representations to the home secretary on human rights grounds. The Crime and Courts Act 2013 saw the law change so all human rights issues regarding extradition had to be considered by the courts. However, since Hanif made representations before the change in law, the home secretary still had a duty to consider his representations under the Human Rights Act.

"Priti Patel’s power has not been completely taken away since 2013, but it has been restricted. She can no longer lock extradition on grounds that it would violate someone’s human rights," Vora said.

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