Vijay Mallya has throughout his career revelled in his ability to be in the spotlight. Whether through his flamboyant lifestyle, his brand of liquor, his Formula 1 team, or his once high-flying and now-grounded airline, it mattered little to him how he got it as long as he did.
But no matter how much he must love being in the media, he would certainly be more than happy to be out of it following the actions initiated by authorities over the almost Rs 9,000 crore he owes to Indian banks.
The attention got worse after he chose to leave the country on March 2 of last year, rather than stay in India and present himself in its courts. Now, with the case for his extradition, which the government has requested, beginning in the UK, the liquor baron is again in the news.
With Mallya not helping his case, at least in front of the Indian media, by making statements such as "You can keep dreaming about a million pounds..you don't know the facts" when a reporter asked him about "billion pounds."
This brings the discussion to the facts of the case such as how much and to who does he and his company owe the money to and the status of his extradition case.
This is what he owes and to who
Mallya, the liquor baron who is being described by the authorities as a "fugitive from justice," and his companies, owe an amount of Rs 6963 crores of 17 banks in India. The figure goes up to Rs 9000 crores when the interest on the amount is taken into account.
The banks on this list include major state-owned banks such as State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, IDBI Bank, Bank of India among others. With the SBI being burdened by the highest loan default of Rs 16,000 crore, nearly double of what is owed to IDBI.
And it is in relation to the money that is owed to IDBI that an arrest warrant was issued against Mallya on January 31 of this year. This is what led to the Central Bureau of Investigation to begin an attempt to bring him back to the country by started the extradition process which led to the businessman being arrested by the Scotland Yard in April this year in London. He was let off on bail after submitting a bond.
The case related to the bank includes charges against Mallya of using part of the loan, given to his now defunct airline, for his personal use. And the case also names others, including the airline and officials of the bank.
The other cases and how is this different
While India and the UK signed an extradition treaty back in 1992, the former's record of being able to get fugitives back to the country from the latter does not give much hope in this latest case.
The attempt to extradite Mallya from the country is the 11th such try by Indian authorities, out of which only one has been successful, that too came last year in the form of the return of Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, an accused in the Gujarat riots case.
Blame for such a dismal record till now has not only been laid on a strict stand taken by British courts but also on the slow nature of following up done by Indian authorities. A lack of active participation by them is a point that has come up in courts during such proceedings and has also been raised by experts in the UK as well as India.
This though seems to be changing in the present case as an active participation is being reported from not only the investigating agency but also from the very top of government. With the case being actively taken up by the finance ministry on the instruction of the Prime Minister's Office, and reports have pointed to the issue not only being discussed by the finance minister's of both the countries but also having been brought up during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart, Theresa May.
Another change that has been noticed in Mallya's case is that instead of waiting for action by Indian courts in all cases of default, the CBI moved forward with the extradition request on the basis of the IDBI default case alone, in an attempt to not let the matter get delayed further.
Will a victory count
In Mallya's case, as he was able to flee the country under the current BJP government's watch, the Modi administration seems to be in a mood to undo this wrong, as it is being seen as a failure on the part of the prime minister to uphold his promise of rooting out corruption and crony capitalism.
This has led to a situation where the steps taken by the government to try and bring him back are being made visible, as continued sightings of Mallya at international sporting events such as Formula 1 races and cricket matches not only antagonise the media but also his lenders and employees of his companies that were left without pay.
Banks have already started to auction few of his properties to try and recover some part of the default amount. This has included the auction of his villa in Goa which fetched Rs 73 crore in addition to Rs 1200 crore from the sale of shares and collaterals.
The reality though seems to be that none of the banks would be able to recover the full amount especially given the current scenario, where the value of his assets have dropped considerably after the controversy broke.
And these have made the attempts to extradite him more important than just to get the amount owed by him back. It is seen as a fight to send a signal, which his arrest, extradition and punishment would give, to big defaulters. A message that all banks seem to want to give out.
This is why a victory in the case for Mallya's extradition would mean a lot to not only those who are owed by him but also to the whole country where the narrative, that while the common man has to pay the price for his every mistake, the rich and powerful get away even after committing serious crimes, still holds strong.
Whether he ever comes back to India, either by choice or force, the fact that his high-flying days in India are over is widely accepted. But with institutions and banks owed by him and his companies still trying to get a sense of justice if not the money, the long drawn out battle that the legal recourse in the UK and later in India, if extradition attempts succeed, are expected to take, are a clear signal of a long fight ahead.