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Vijay Mallya Extradition Case: UK Judge Says ‘Obvious’ Indian Banks Broke Rules

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 March 17: It was blindingly obvious that rules were being broken by Indian banks which sanctioned some of the loans to the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines, said the British judge hearing the extradition case of liquor baron Vijay Mallya.  While Presiding over a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Judge Emma Arbuthnot termed the case a jigsaw puzzle with different pieces of massive evidence to be put together to paint a picture, which she said she was now able to see more clearly than a few months ago.

Arbuthnot said that there are clear signs that the banks seem to have gone against their own guidelines (in sanctioning some of the loans). She also asked the Indian authorities to explain the case against some of the bank officials involved because that relates to the conspiracy point against Mallya.

On the other hand, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, laid out their arguments against the defence calling into question the admissibility of some of evidence submitted by the Indian authorities. CPS counsel Mark Summers refuted defence claims and asserted that Mallya had chosen not to give evidence in the case. The government of India has established by other copious evidence a prima facie case of fraud, he said.

The judge is expected to rule on the admissibility of evidence and set a time frame for her final verdict. However, the matter could be delayed over further clarifications required on the source of some of the emails submitted as evidence by the Indian authorities.

Clare Montgomery, Mallya’s counsel, however, 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.

However, Arbuthnot did not seem to be convinced by Montgomery argument and said she had found only two-three cases of mistakes but did not see a problem in the preparation of the statements. She 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.

The CPS indicated to the judge that the government had provided all the necessary clarifications along with photographs of the two cells that comprise Barrack 12.

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 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.

In April 2017, Mallya was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant 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.(Agencies)

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