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All depends on India’s paperwork as London court to give final hearing in Mallya case on July 11

The Indian effort to make the Mallya case watertight has led the judge in Westminster magistrates court to describe its various facets as a “jigsaw puzzle”.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2018 09:25 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya is facing charges of financial irregularities and bank loan fraud to the tune of more than Rs 9,000 crore in India
Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya is facing charges of financial irregularities and bank loan fraud to the tune of more than Rs 9,000 crore in India(AP File Photo)

Indian agencies have shown energy and attention to detail in the extradition case of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, who faces a final hearing in a London court on July 11 after several since April last year.

India has presented a litany of charges backed by evidence and has even removed a joint secretary in a ministry to speed up things. This is significant in the context of previous cases failing due to poor paperwork, which did not hold in British courts.

The Indian effort to make the Mallya case watertight has led the judge in Westminster magistrates court to describe its various facets as a “jigsaw puzzle”.

The task before a judge in extradition cases is not to rule on the criminality or otherwise of a person sought. But to examine whether the person has a prima facie case to answer in the country requesting the extradition and to ensure that there is no threat to life, if extradited.

Mallya is facing charges of financial irregularities and bank loan fraud to the tune of more than Rs 9,000 crore in India. He allegedly fled to the United Kingdom (UK) in March 2016 to avoid investigation and trial in India.

The case documents mention that the alleged amount of loans obtained dishonestly is “Rs 1,500 million, Rs 2,000 million and Rs 7,500 million during October and November 2009”.

India’s case is that Mallya, in conjunction with senior officials of his Kingfisher company and officials of IDBI bank, dishonestly agreed to and secured the disbursement of loans on a false basis.

India’s affidavit says: “Mallya, in his capacity as chairman … was instrumental in getting (the loans) sanctioned.”

India also put supplementary money-laundering charges against Mallya in October 2017. The new charges, presented with supporting evidence, sought to show where the money went. For instance, it was alleged that some of the funds ended up with his Force India racing team.

Mallya’s team has mentioned four grounds to oppose the extradition: the absence of a prima facie case, extraneous considerations, human rights, and abuse of process. The Indian side represented by the Crown Prosecution Service refuted these contentions.

According to the defence, India’s case is based on “deliberate misrepresentations, crucial misunderstandings and basic errors”.

The underlying reason, it has alleged, is that the businessman is the victim of a high-profile witch hunt conducted by India’s government supported by “politicians of every stripe”, the courts and a public baying for his conviction and imprisonment as “the embodiment of all the ills of capitalism in contemporary India”.

The defence raised questions about the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) independence and the alleged failings of Indian courts, prisons and the political system.

The objective has been to highlight the possibility of human rights violation and Mallya not receiving a fair trial once extradited to India.

The case is argued by two top lawyers with Queen’s Counsel status: Mark Summers for India and Claire Montgomery for the defence, which also includes Anand Doobay. The three have co-authored a book on extradition law.

If Mallya loses in Westminster, he has the option to appeal in the high court and the British top court. And depending on the timing and how Brexit negotiations proceed, he could also approach the European Court of Justice, which is known to be lenient on human rights.

Besides, there is this precedent of Tiger Hanif, wanted for two bomb blasts in Gujarat in 1993. He lost legal bids to avoid extradition, the last in April 2013, but made a final representation to the United Kingdom home secretary, who is yet to take a decision.

The Mallya case is significant in the context of the 1993 India-UK extradition treaty. Only one individual has been extradited so far — Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, wanted for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, in October 2016.