International

India wins admissibility argument in Vijay Mallya case in U.K. court

Vijay Mallya leaves after a hearing for his extradition case at Westminster Magistrates Court, in London, on Friday.

Vijay Mallya leaves after a hearing for his extradition case at Westminster Magistrates Court, in London, on Friday.   | Photo Credit: AP

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"You want a hearing for the press,” Judge asks defence barrister.

An attempt by the defence team of beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya to rule out much of the evidence in the case against him presented by India suffered a setback on Friday as the judge ruled that most of the evidence produced thus far in the case would be admissible, save for an email conversation covered by legal professional privilege (LPP).

Judge Emma Arbuthnot, who had in a previous hearing indicated this was likely to be the case, firmed up that “everything” aside from the LPP email would be taken into account, and that she would reserve judgement on this latter issue.

This ruling, which will be welcomed by Indian authorities in the overall progression of the case, came during a hearing, in which the defence appeared to be pushing for more time, through a request for a further hearing, at which both sides could put across their closing arguments.

Defence barrister Ben Watson pushed for the hearing despite the judge’s questioning its utility.

“You want a hearing for the press!” Judge Arbuthnot declared as Mr. Watson pushed for a “constructive exercise,” that was needed in the wake of the “significant public interest” in the case.

Final hearing in July

A final hearing in July was agreed upon, with both sides set to present further details, including from the Indian side signed attestations from the compiling official of the evidence.

The brief hearing will add further time to an extradition proceeding already much beset by delays.

Speaking after the hearing, outside the courtroom, Mr. Mallya denied suggestions that his legal team was attempting to stall proceedings, pointing to the fact that when attempting to settle upon a date for the final hearing, his team had pushed for a July date, rather than one in September that was suggested by the prosecution.

During the hearing it emerged that the prosecution had introduced further evidence relating to the role and disproportional assets of BK Batra, a former IDBI official who was arrested last year. “If you are looking for a motive this is an answer,” Prosecution lead barrister Mark Summers said, adding it was up to the judge how much weight was given to the new testimony.

The judge dubbed the role of Batra, as presented in the prosecution case as that of a “villain.”

Further testimony from prison expert

The Defence also introduced further testimony from witness and prison expert Alan Mitchell, contesting the prison conditions that India had offered assurances on, in response to the judge’s request. While Mr. Summers insisted they had addressed the judge’s concerns, Mr. Watson said there were “real issues” with the veracity of the material supplied. “they don’t present a true fair and accurate picture,” he insisted pointing to one image meant to highlight amount of natural sunlight, but which appeared to have a discrepancy in it.

After previous hearings when the quality of the documentation from India and the nature of its presentation faced questions, the judge appeared much more content on this count. She described as “very helpful” both a detailed note on the conspiracy charges facing Mr. Mallya should he be extradited to India, as well as a schedule of notional charges. “The most helpful thing I’ve found is the conspiracy note which clearly sets out the inferences and the real weight of the inferences,” she told the court.

The prosecution will have a further six weeks to present further details, and the defence another four weeks to respond.

The next hearing is set for July 11.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 11:47:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/india-wins-admissibility-argument-in-mallya-case/article23698867.ece

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