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Beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya, currently on the lam, has drawn parallels between himself and Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Vadra, for his part, has not taken too kindly to Mallya's claims.
The Times of India reported on Tuesday that while defending himself before a court in the United Kingdom against India's request to extradite him, Mallya said that he was a political victim like Vadra and Singh. According to the national daily, the 61-year-old businessman even presented news reports that quoted Opposition Congress members alleging that the Narendra Modi-led central government's targeting of Vadra and Singh was a political vendetta.
Further, according to the report, Mallya also cited "inhuman jail conditions" in his native country while defending himself in the UK court.
The Enforcement Directorate replied that Mallya was attempting to divert attention by employing unsubstantiated media reports instead of discussing the case on its merit, the report added.
Vadra, according to agency reports, shrugged off Mallya's statement. The Congress chief's son-in-law said that while he was a political victim, he had never misused his position or absconded with anyone's money.
"Yet again, I came across the news, where somebody or the other is using my name as crutches, for their personal benefits... This time, none other than Mr Vijay Mallya citing my references in the UK courts. I would like to remind Mr Mallya, yes I am a political victim, but I never misused my position and have full faith in my country's judicial system... I never ran away with anyone's money from the country like him," Vadra said.
Vadra also advised the now-defunct Kingfisher airline's chairman to come back to India and face all pending legal matters against him.
"My piece of advise to him is 'to please return to India and face all pending legal matters and to clear his dues to the people owed', and last but not the least, 'please avoid using my name', I do not wish to be associated with you in any matter," Vadra said.
Vadra has been under the scanner for allegedly dubious land deals made in Haryana when the Congress was in power for 10 years.
At the time of publishing, the Himachal Pradesh chief minister had not issued a statement.
As reported earlier, in 2015, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a case against Virbhadra Singh and his family for owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income when he was a Union minister between 2009 and 2011. Cases have been filed against his wife Pratibha Singh, son Vikramaditya and daughter Aparajita as well.
On Monday, a defiant Mallya appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London for his pre-trial hearing where the liquor baron's extradition hearing was confirmed for eight days starting December 4.
According to agency reports, Mallya, out on bail on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard earlier this year, was released by the judge on the same bail conditions and asked to appear at court on December 4. The trial will last until December 14, with December 8 marked as a non-sitting day.
Speaking to reporters as he left Monday's case management hearing, Mallya said he has repeatedly stressed that he has done nothing wrong and will let the evidence speak in court. "It will all become clear in court," he said.
As reported earlier, Mallya will fight the attempt to drag him back to India not just on the issue of poor prison conditions in India, but on the alleged demerits of New Delhi’s argument.
Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines, now defunct, is said to be in default of bank loans to the tune of Rs 5,500 crore plus penalties and surcharges, making it reportedly a total debt of Rs 9,000 crore. He has, however, been charged of misdemeanour connected with only Rs 900 crore — accused of colluding with senior executives of IDBI Bank to obtain this facility. It is further alleged that he syphoned off a part of the money abroad for personal gain and, in effect, indulged in money laundering. He denies the charges.
According to the report, Mallya has unveiled his big gun — Claire Montgomery, a barrister described as "the most formidable member of the bar" and author of a book The Law of Extradition.