Is there a prima facie case against Vijay Mallya? UK high court to rule
The high court of England and Wales will hear over three days from Tuesday an appeal from businessman Vijay Mallya, who is arguing that the government of India does not have a case against him while seeking his extradition to face charges of major financial offences.
Under the UK’s extradition law, a prima facie case needs to be established before a decision can be taken to extradite the requested person. The Westminster Magistrates Court ruled in December 2018 that there is a prima facie case of fraud, but the high court allowed Mallya to appeal against it in July 2019.
Mallya’s extradition case rests on the charge that he and his companies conspired to defraud the IDBI, which lent his Kingfisher Airlines multi-crore loans in 2009. His version is that he was unable to return bank loans due to a genuine business failure, rather than any intention to defraud.
Mallya’s defence team put forth several grounds to resist his extradition, but the high court allowed appeal only on the ground that the magistrates court had erred in concluding that a prima facie case exists against him, for which he needs to be sent to India.
The high court had ruled on July 2: “The first and by far the most substantial ground in terms of the nature and complexity of the material which the court is asked to grapple with is a contention that the senior district judge was wrong to conclude that the Government had established a prima facie case”.
“(We) have been persuaded that the applicant’s first ground of appeal is at least reasonably arguable”.
Mallya, who attended most hearings, said at the time: “I always said there is no prima facie case against me. I am still ready to return the money to the bank. I have always maintained that these are false charges, fabricated charges and have no merit”.
“I think my point has been vindicated…I wanted to win on the prima facie ground because that is central to everything”.
Claire Montgomery, Mallya’s lawyer, had raised doubts about the credibility of some of the paperwork submitted by the Indian government, particularly the alleged identical nature of several witness statements.
She also argued that India had submitted a fraction of the relevant paperwork, adding that if the full material were submitted, the magistrates court would not have reached the conclusions it did. India, she alleged, chose not to submit annexures included in loan applications that had details of Kingfisher Airlines.
“There is no justification for the assertions (in the magistrates court’s judgement) about misrepresentations about the financial position of the company. The charge of misrepresentation is unsubstantiated in the ruling”, she had asserted.
The high court had allowed the appeal on the ground of prima facie case, but rejected others such as risk to his human rights in the Arthur Road jail, inability to get a fair trial in India, the claim that he is being punished for his political opinions, and that there would be a ‘breach of specialty’ if he were sent to India.
Under the India-UK extradition treaty, ‘specialty’ is a rule that the person sought will be tried only for those offences mentioned in the extradition request, and not for others.
Montgomery had argued that there would be a ‘breach of specialty’ if he is extradited, because over 40 cases are ongoing against him in India, many with non-bailable warrants. There is no assurance from New Delhi that the other cases would be dropped if he is extradited, she had argued.
Mallya has been on bail since his arrest in London in April 2017.