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Book Excerpt: Why rich Indian fugitives often escape to London

And what it takes to bring them back: a new book deep-dives into 12 extradition cases, including the Vijay Mallya extradition case and the Nirav Modi extradition case

March 27, 2021 / 08:39 AM IST
Vijay Mallya is wanted in India for defaulting on bank loans worth crores of rupees.

Vijay Mallya is wanted in India for defaulting on bank loans worth crores of rupees.

Security at Ladywalk is a priority and several CCTV cameras are in operation 24x7 at various entry and exit points along the periphery of the extensive property. Guards, dressed in black and armed with iPads and binoculars, are ever vigilant, and more so for snoopy scribes. The large modern house sits on 30 acres of land and boasts of swimming pools, tennis courts and several outhouses. The two-year renovation of the property saw a continuous flow of architects, landscape artists, builders and gardeners. But what the locals most look forward to is the plethora of supercars that take to the narrow roads leading to Queen Hoo Lane. A sure sign that the party king is at home!

The story begins on 11 June 2014. This property was already on the market through estate agents Savills and Knight Frank with at least one prospective buyer lined up. (Vijay) Mallya paid Hamilton a visit, instantly fell in love with the property and immediately made an offer. An offer that Anthony Hamilton could not refuse.

So desperate was Mallya to make this his new home that a written agreement between the two was signed that day, thus sealing the fate of this property. Interestingly, this agreement specified the ‘Buyer’ as: ‘Dr Vijay Mallya and/or, Miss Leena Vijay Mallya, Miss Tanya Vijay Mallya, Mr Siddhartha Vijay Mallya OR to his/their order’. Mallya’s Cornwall Terrace address in London was listed as the residential address. The deal was signed for a whopping £13 million and strangely no deposit was taken by Hamilton on that day.

On 11 June 2014, Anthony Hamilton signed as the ‘seller’, witnessed by Force India’s Deputy Head Robert Fernley, and Mallya signed the agreement under his own name as a ‘buyer’, witnessed by his chartered accountant Dr Lakshmi Kanthan. The only signature on the preliminary agreement under the ‘buyer’ was that of Mallya. None of his children had accompanied him to view the property and there is no evidence to suggest that they were aware that they were put as buyers then or had authorized Mallya to purchase the property on their behalf.

This property has all the hallmarks of being owned and occupied by Mallya. A fleet of supercars making their way down the drive, hordes of people descending to party all night long and a constant delivery of goods and services. Yet when we dig deeper into the ownership, Vijay Mallya is a phantom lurking everywhere yet really nowhere.

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Ladywalk is propped up on a complex structure of ownership that defines the existence of many such marquee properties in the UK. Mallya has never disputed claims that he bought his new family home with the intention of securing it for his son and two daughters. Though he has often nonchalantly challenged reporters to prove that the Ladywalk property was bought by him through ill-gotten money. If one can lawfully hide the real ownership and flow of funds, why wouldn’t billionaires exercise the option and bask in the security this provides them?

Here is how the complex network of newly created trusts, registered in far-off tax havens, operated through a discreet Swiss financial firm, secured for Mallya his most prized home in the UK: On 29 January 2015, Ladywalk LLP was established under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2000, ‘to carry on the business of investing in, owning and letting residential property’ (clause 3) and the net profits of the business were to be distributed between limited partners (99.9 per cent) and the general partner (0.1 per cent). There were two limited partners: 1: Continental Administrative Services Limited (CASL) as trustee of Welwyn Property Trust and 2: CASL as trustee of Tewin Property Trust. The general partner was CASL as trustee of Sileta Trust.

ESCAPEDSileta Trust, established on 21 July 2007, has Lalitha Mallya as the settlor and Vijay Mallya as the protector, for a 100-year ‘Trust Period’. As a protector, Vijay Mallya then added his children—Leena, Tanya and Siddhartha—as beneficiaries of the Sileta Trust by a resolution dated 1 May 2016. Both the Welwyn Property Trust and Tewin Property Trust were established on 25 January 2015, just four days before the agreement was entered into. The two trusts established in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) bear names derived from the location of the property: Queen Hoo Lane, Tewin, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, AL6 0LT. Ladywalk LLP was also established in the BVI. This was also the registered address for Ladywalk LLP.

CASL is a Switzerland-based, corporate trustee company run by one Andrea Rishaal Vallabh, who executed the Ladywalk property deal on behalf of three separate trusts. On 3 July 2015, Andrea Vallabh signed a declaration stating that he held his interest in Ladywalk LLP as a nominee and trustee of CASL, as a trustee of Sileta Trust. But Andrea is kin to Jayprakash Vallabh, who resigned from the position of director of McDowell & Co. (Scotland) in July 2015. McDowell & Co. (Scotland) was set up in July 1993 with Vijay Mallya as its founding director.

Interestingly, Jayprakash along with his wife Susanna held a 10 per cent stake in Kingfisher Airlines. He also held a significant stake in Watson Ltd based in Mauritius that owned a 21 per cent stake in UBHL. Jayprakash and Susanna were also directors of CAS Nominees, registered in the Isle of Man, that serves as the principal trustee of the Golden Eagle Trust, a Mallya family trust established by the patriarch Vittal in the 1980s.

The bond between the Mallyas and the Vallabhs dates back many decades, and to many offshore companies that have been linked to Mallya’s flagship businesses. It is, therefore, not surprising to see the Vallabhs once again take centre stage in securing the Ladywalk property for Mallya. It also comes as no surprise that CASL was constituted under the laws of St Kitts and Nevis, perhaps the most secretive tax haven today.

Excerpted with permission from ‘Escaped: True stories of Indian fugitives in London’, by Danish Khan and Ruhi Khan; published by Ebury Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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