Vijay Mallya extradition hearing set to begin

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya leaves after attending a case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London. File

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya leaves after attending a case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London. File   | Photo Credit: AP

The much-awaited extradition hearing of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya is set to kick off in central London on Monday. Over the next ten days, Chief Magistrate at Westminster Magistrate’s Court Emma Arbuthnot will hear the case presented by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Indian government, and the defence on which Mr. Mallya will hope to thwart efforts to return him to India to face prosecution.

Mr. Mallya was arrested in London in April this year initially on fraud charges, with money laundering charges added subsequently. He has been on bail since April.

A number of case management hearings have taken place since. Initial efforts by the defence to push the hearings into the New Year have proved unsuccessful, and despite the addition of new charges in October, the December date has remained firm, reflecting the eagerness of both sides now to bring the case to a conclusion.

Official cooperation

While just one Indian has been extradited from the U.K. in the last 24 years (Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, wanted by India in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots), with two extradition attempts refused in early November, there is a certain level of confidence on the Indian side, which has been pro-active in its approach. The Indian team has addressed some of the issues that often arise in such cases — an explanation of the prison conditions that Mr. Mallya could face were addressed in written material presented to the court ahead of the judge’s request for such evidence.

Regular engagement between Indian and British authorities both in New Delhi and London has also taken place, reflecting recognition on the British side of the seriousness with which the charges are being pursued by India.

However, with the matter now within the court system, the two sides have sought to emphasise that it no longer remains a matter between the two governments.

No date for verdict

The timing of a verdict on the case remains unclear. The court is yet to decide on a suggestion from the judge about whether written closing submissions — which Ms. Arbuthnot is known to prefer in cases she hears — would be filed in December at the end of the case or in January. The defence has objected to the suggestion, arguing that delaying it to January could be used by the prosecution to introduce fresh material — evidential or non evidential.

“Things have a habit of popping up,” Ms. Arbuthnot concurred, leaving the option open for when the written, closing arguments were to be submitted. The defence had also previously criticised the introduction of supplemental money laundering charges, which led to Mr. Mallya’s re-arrest, and re-release on bail in early October.

Mark Summers QC, a specialist in extradition law will lead the case for the prosecution, while Clare Montgomery QC will lead the defence. Witnesses set to appear include Margaret Sweeney, the chief accountant at Force India F1 Team, Dr. Humphreys, an aviation expert, Professor Lau, a legal expert, and Dr. Alan Mitchell, who has previously given evidence in other extradition cases on prison conditions in India.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 10:01:43 PM |

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