No natural light or air in India jail: Mallya

London: As Vijay Mallya complained about “no natural light” or fresh air in Indian jails, a UK judge on Tuesday asked India for a video of a cell at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai where it plans to keep the fraud-accused liquor tycoon. The court will take up the high-profile extradition case next in three weeks, on September 12.
Mallya said he had made an “unconditional offer” to an Indian court in a bid to settle fraud charges.
Mallya, chairman of the UB Group drinks conglomerate and chief executive of the financially ailing Force India Formula One team, said it did not entail pleading guilty to any crimes. “I have not included any clemency plea or plea bargain in my unconditional offer to the Kernataka High Court,” he told reporters outside a London court after the latest hearing in his legal battle against facing trial in his homeland.
“All we’ve said to the court (is), ‘Here are the assets… please sell them under judicial supervision, pay the banks, pay the other creditors’.” Asked how any financial settlement in India could affect fraud charges filed against him, Mallya added that it was up to the Indian government. “They have their legal advisers, I have mine, and if the way forward has to be decided before various judicial forums, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Mallya, known for his lavish lifestyle, left India in March 2016 owing more than $1 billion after defaulting on loan payments to state-owned banks and allegedly misusing the funds. The loans from the state-owned IDBI bank were intended to bail out his failed carrier Kingfisher Airlines, whose motto was “Fly the Good Times” but folded in 2012 under huge debts. Indian authorities last year laid money-laundering charges against the tycoon, who dropped off India’s most wealthy list in 2014.
He was subsequently arrested in Britain and released on bail as he battles extradition, living in a sprawling $15 million (13 million euros) mansion in southeast England.
Heading into court on Tuesday, he again called the charges “completely false”.
“And now that the assets are before the court, and I’m in the hands of the court, I hope this will all end,” Mallya said. Inside the courtroom, England’s Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot — who handles the country’s most complex extradition cases — delayed a decision on the case to September 12.
She has been considering concerns over conditions at the prison in Mumbai where Mallya will be held, including overcrowding and whether it provides Western-style toilets.
Among the outstanding issues on Tuesday was the amount of natural light, with the judge ordering a video be filmed of the facility within three weeks to gauge the amount it receives.
“Perhaps it ought to be done at midday,” Arbuthnot told British government lawyers. “I want to see…whether the windows pick up any natural light.”
Mallya’s lawyer Clare Montgomery told the judge that prosecutors’ assurances on conditions “cannot be relied upon”.
“It’s clear… that whatever the light is, it’s not natural light flooding into the cell — there just isn’t any.” — AFP