Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019 | Last Update : 07:18 PM IST

Will the noose around Mallya now tighten?

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Apr 22, 2017, 12:20 am IST
Updated : Apr 22, 2017, 12:20 am IST

Theresa May points to them in her argument for a general election, saying that they are disrupters.

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya (Photo: AP)
 Liquor baron Vijay Mallya (Photo: AP)

“Why do we say ‘forever’
When we know there’s no such thing?
No effort, no endeavour
Prolongs our youthful spring
Passing years can teach us —
Those who resist are fools
This sun whose rays now reach us
Ultimately cools!”
From Cleopatra-Ni-Machchi
by Bachchoo

Last Tuesday was crucial for Britain because, after very emphatically and repeatedly denying that the UK needed a general election to legitimise her prime ministership, Theresa May called a general election on June 8, giving political parties 51 days to communicate their appeal to voters. The election had been called, she said, because “the country was united behind her stance on Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, but the Parliament of Westminster was not”.

Her contention is disingenuous and transparently silly. The official Opposition of the Labour Party is in complete chaos about this Brexit deal and, almost every day, Labour make contradictory statements about it, even though their leader Jeremy Corbyn asserts at every turn that he will support Britain’s Brexit.

The other UK Opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, are clear that they want a second referendum. They believe that when British voters find out how disastrous Brexit will be, they will change their minds. Ms May points to them in her argument for a general election, saying that they are disrupters. The Lib-Dems have eight members of Parliament. It’s like saying a fellow without a thumb can win an archery contest.

So that was the big news on Tuesday when I received a call from an Indian TV station. The researcher wanted to know what I thought about the “Mallya question”. I said I was unacquainted with such a question as my attention was fully absorbed on the prospect of the general election and the wipeout of the Labour Party. No, no, said the diligent researcher, Mr Vijay Mallya had that very day been arrested and taken to a London court in Westminster, had been subjected to arguments about his extradition to India and then been let out on bail of a million “dollars”. Now as far as I know, Britain deals in pounds and pence and not in dollars, so a Westminster court setting bail terms in dollars was a bit confusing.

I thought perhaps Indian TV converts sterling sums to dollars because Indian money-launderers deal in US currency. That was not important. The researcher asked me if I would comment on the arrest of Mr Mallya, the bail that was granted him and his prospects of being extradited to India to face charges of mishandling `9,000 crores of rupees.

Every time I am presented with these sums, I remind myself that a crore is 10 million and then my calculating head starts fiddling with the number of zeroes — accepting that a lakh, which is a hundredth of a crore was a thousand pounds a little whole ago — which made the conversion simpler — but after the Brexit vote with the pound down, it’s more like 80-something rupees to… I lose track and me! With a degree in natural sciences (including maths) from Cambridge!

Okay, significant sums! The very competent researcher asks if I can be present in a studio to present my point of view on the Mallya case by 3.30 Greenwich Mean Time. Indian TV stations never offer me a fee for appearing and voicing an opinion. The only payoff is vanity and friends from India saying “I saw you on TV — you made the most sense!” (They don’t always say the last thing). The studio was not far from where I was so I said I’d do it. In the studio I heard the anchor say that there were distinguished politicians from the BJP and the Congress and some very respected and knowledgeable commentators in the studio. Nevertheless, she came to me first and asked what I thought of the arrest and the bail.

By the time I settled in, facing that camera alone with an earpiece, I had thought it out and will put it plainly: If I were Mr Mallya, or indeed Lalit Modi, I would be extremely anxious about the day’s events. Ms May has called an election to strengthen her hand on Brexit, and if she succeeds on June 9 then she will begin trade talks with India and others. Trade talks are never only about trade. They could very probably involve deals on extradition of people the Indian government want to try in Indian courts for alleged offences. British governments do most deals if it suits their material interests — they don’t care about Saudi beheadings or using British weapons to kill civilians in Yemen as long as they can sell them armaments.

On the TV programme the Congress spokesperson said that the release of Mr Mallya on bail was a defeat for the BJP government’s extradition orders, warrants and demands. British courts tend to give bail terms to defendants who are not a threat to the public and in the court’s view are unlikely to abscond.

Hah! They don’t understand Indians. If I were Mr Mallya, I would assess the danger of deportation to India, the loss of the million dollars and use my bail release to get to a country with no extradition treaty with India. I am aware that Mr Mallya has no passport as the Indian government withdrew his, but the British underworld can, for a price Mallya can easily afford, supply him with a false passport which can take him, for example, to Northern Ireland and through the still-porous border to the Irish Republic and from there to… Hey! This is rubbish! The last few times I left the UK on a flight my passport was checked by some trolley-dolly as I entered the plane and not by any scrutinising authority. So “Mexit” (Mallya’s exit from Britain) is not going to be difficult.

(Dhondy, how dare you use this newspaper to suggest criminal activity!) — ED

(Sirji, please publish, it's columnist's licence. Sorry yaar — fd)

Tags: vijay mallaya, jeremy corbyn, brexit