Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya has resigned as director of his Formula One motorsport company Force India as his legal team filed an application to seek an appeal against a 1.145-billion-pound UK high court ruling on freezing of his assets.
The 62-year-old Mallya, who is fighting extradition to India on fraud and money laundering charges worth an estimated Rs 9,000 crore, resigned as director of Sahara Force India Formula One Team Limited on May 24, according to the UK Companies House records.
Sahara India Pariwar boss Subrata Roy remains a director of the company headquartered at Silverstone in the East Midlands region of England. "The team will not be making any further comment," said a spokesperson for Force India.
Mallya was quoted in some of racing publications as saying that his son, Siddharth Mallya, would be taking on the position of company director in his place, while he continues in his role as 'team principal'.
"There was no compulsion anywhere to resign. It's just that I decided my son should replace me," he told 'Autosport'.
"I have my own legal issues to take care of, so it's better that the company remains unaffected," he added.
The legal issues involve his extradition trial, the next hearing for which is scheduled for July 11 at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.
Meanwhile, UK law firm TLT, which had won a landmark case last month on behalf of 13 Indian banks seeking recovery of their dues from the businessman, confirmed that Mallya's legal team has filed an application to seek permission to appeal against the high court order in the court of appeal earlier this week.
In the high court ruling on May 8, Judge Andrew Henshaw had refused to overturn a worldwide order freezing Mallya's assets and upheld an Indian court's ruling that the consortium of 13 Indian banks--State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Corporation bank, Federal Bank Ltd, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, Punjab & Sind Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of Mysore, UCO Bank, United Bank of India, and JM Financial Asset Reconstruction Co Pvt Ltd--were entitled to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds.
"The banks are considering all of their options," a TLT spokesperson said.
The victory for the banks enables them to enforce India's Debt Recovery Tribunal's (DRT) ruling against Mallya's assets in England and Wales. The worldwide freezing order prevents him from removing any assets from England and Wales up to that value or to in any way dispose of, deal with or diminish the value of his assets in or outside of this jurisdiction, up to the same value.
The case marked the first recorded case of a judgment of the DRT in India being registered by the UK high court, setting a legal precedent.
"In all these circumstances, and even taking account of the fact that Dr Mallya is contesting the alleged grounds for extradition, there are grounds for regarding Dr Mallya as a fugitive from justice," Judge Henshaw had said as part of his ruling. He had also refused permission to appeal, leaving Mallya's legal team with the last resort of turning to the UK court of appeal.
A decision on whether his appeal against the high court order will be accepted is expected within four to six weeks.
Meanwhile, the former Kingfisher Airlines boss remains on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April last year. He will return for his extradition hearing next month, after which the court is expected to set a timeline for a judgment in that case.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the Indian government, says it has successfully established a prima facie case of fraud against the industrialist.
Mallya's lawyers have claimed the criminal charges against him are "without substance" and "politically motivated". They have also challenged the case on human rights grounds, questioning the conditions at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where the businessman is to be held post-extradition.