UK Courts Clip India Kingfisher’s Wings

Courts in the United Kingdom decided this week to give the go-ahead to the extradition of Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya. Mallya is best known as head of the Kingfisher brand, noted in India for its popular Kingfisher beer and for the short-lived Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya has been in the U.K. since March 2016 in an attempt to avoid legal trouble stemming from defaulted loans valued at over C$1.64 billion, money used to fund the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya's extradition request came from Prime Minister Modi and the Indian Government who accused Mallya of loan default and money laundering on top of fraud accusations from a Mumbai court. Mallya, immediately after the decision, opted to appeal his case.

Mallya's extradition order by the U.K. courts is a major victory for the Modi government, which has pledged to eradicate black money and corruption in India. After election upsets in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh by the opposition Indian National Congress, along with mounting criticism of the government's policies since its election in 2014, the news of Mallya's extradition is further fuel for Prime Minister Modi's campaign ahead of general elections in April.

A week prior to the U.K. courts' decision, the banks implicated in Mallya's defaults seized C$2.38 billion in assets from Mallya following a ruling by India's Enforcement Directorate to pay off debts owed. Mallya has also been vocal on Twitter throughout the hearings and ever since arriving in the U.K., claiming that his move to the U.K. was not him fleeing India, and criticizing the banks' move to seize his properties. Kingfisher Airlines never made a profit in the eight years it was in operation. Many also point to the airline's acquisition of low-cost carrier Air Deccan as a contributing factor in the company's demise.