Vijay Mallya appears in extradition trial in UK court

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London: Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya on Friday appeared before a UK court here in his extradition case for one of its final hearings.

The 62-year-old, who is on trial at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to rule if he can be extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores, is on bail until April 2.

Though he was not obliged to attend the hearing today, Mallya still appeared in court.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot is expected to rule on the admissibility of evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on behalf of the Indian government and set a timeframe for her final verdict.

At the last hearing in January, Mallya’s counsel, Clare Montgomery, had argued that evidence that was claimed as a “blueprint of dishonesty” by the CPS was in fact privileged conversation between Mallya and his lawyer about “legal advice in clear contemplation of litigation” and hence should be inadmissible.

On a separate category of evidence presented by the Indian government, Mallya’s team questioned the reliability of investigating officers in the case and pointed to over 150 pages of “near identical material” purporting to be statement of witnesses taken under Section 161 of the Indian CrPC.

“They do not appear to be in any way an account of things that witnesses would have said but rather seem to be somebody else’s analysis put into the mouths of the witnesses, down to the spelling mistakes,” Montgomery said, adding that the documents were “identically reproduced” with not only the same words but also the same typing errors.

After the defence has completed its arguments, the CPS will respond against the claim of “absence of a strong prima facie case on grounds of iniquity”.

Judge Arbuthnot had also sought further clarifications related to availability of natural light and medical assistance at Barrack 12 of Mumbai Central Prison on Arthur Road, where Mallya is to be held if he is extradited from Britain.

According to Indian authorities, these clarifications have been provided to the court.

The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against the tycoon, who has been based in the UK since he left India in March 2016.

It also seeks to prove that there are no “bars to extradition” and that Mallya is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crore in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.

The CPS, representing the Indian government, has argued that the evidence they have presented confirms “dishonesty” on the part of the businessman and that there are no bars to him being extradited from the UK to face Indian courts.

Mallya’s defence team has deposed a series of expert witnesses to claim he had no “fraudulent” intentions and that he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.

Mallya was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant in April 2017 and has been out on bail on a bond worth 650,000 pounds. Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot is expected to pronounce her verdict in the case by May this year.

If she rules in favour of the Indian government, the UK home secretary will have two months to sign Mallya’s extradition order. However, both sides will have the chance to appeal in higher courts in the UK against the chief magistrate’s verdict.

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