LONDON: Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya insisted Monday that he was innocent of money-laundering accusations Monday after the evacuation of a London court building forced him to face a swarm of journalists he had sought to avoid.
The start of Mallya’s extradition hearing was delayed by 70 minutes because of the emergency evacuation at Westminster Magistrates Court, leaving the 61-year-old businessman and former politician to mingle with the media outside.
Television crews from India pursued him until he briefly proclaimed he had done nothing wrong.
“The allegations are baseless, unfounded, deliberate, and you will see our submissions in court,” Mallya said.
Reporters kept circling him on the sidewalk.
“The answer will be given to the judge. You think you are going to conduct a trial by media?” he asked.
Once the court’s emergency alarm stopped, lawyers for the Indian government started presenting a complex case against Mallya in support of the extradition request.
Mark Summers, presenting India’s case on behalf of Indian prosecutors, described Mallya’s attempt to prop up his ailing Kingfisher Airlines with bank loans in 2009 despite the carrier’s dire financial straits.
“It was an airline in trouble at this stage, seeking financial assistance from a large number of banks and a large amount of money,” Summers said.
Summers indicated the government plans to show that loans totalling hundreds of millions of dollars were misused. Indian officials have said Mallya is deeply in debt.
Mallya, wearing a well-tailored suit and freshly barbered hair, sat impassively in the dock as the case against him was presented. His lawyer asked the judge to allow the entrepreneur to be seated in the courtroom instead of the glass-enclosed dock, but the request was denied.
Scotland Yard’s extradition unit arrested Mallya in response to a request from the Indian government.
Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005, but it ran into trouble as it expanded. The Indian government suspended the airline’s license in 2012 after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.
The extradition hearing is expected to take roughly two weeks and lead to a verdict on whether Mallya will be sent back to India or allowed to remain in Britain.
The tycoon will have the right to a further appeal if he loses his bid to remain in the United Kingdom.