A SENIOR professor from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, reportedly engaged by Vijay Mallya’s lawyer, has, in a statement to a London court, cited the recent promotion of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the CBI special director to highlight the “lack of integrity” in the way “criminal investigations and prosecutions are carried out in India”.
Meanwhile, Mallya appeared before the court for his pre-trial hearing on Monday. His extradition hearing was confirmed for eight days starting December 4.
In his “statement of impartiality”, Professor Lawrence Saez, who has identified himself as “a leading expert on the government and politics of South Asia”, has said: “Concerns about the lack of independence by some criminal investigation agencies, like the ED and CBI, also suggest an overall lack of integrity in the way that criminal investigations and prosecution are carried out in India.”
Citing the case of Asthana, who is handling Mallya’s case in the CBI, Saez has said: “There were serious concerns raised by the Vigilance Commission… surrounding the CBI’s additional director Rakesh Asthana’s recent effort to win promotion as special director of the CBI. The CVC, India’s leading anti-corruption government agency, opposed Mr Asthana’s promotion on account of issues regarding the integrity clause, because his name appeared in a list of bribe takers of a company investigated by the CBI… Despite seriousness of the allegations against Mr Asthana, he was nonetheless promoted as the CBI’s special director.”
While Saez has named the CVC, it was actually CBI director Alok Verma who dissented over Asthana’s promotion. Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary had clarified that the process (for Asthana’s promotion) was followed and the recommendations were unanimous.
Saez, who is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s India Agenda Council, is reported to have been engaged by Mallya’s lawyer Anand Doobay of Boutique Law firm, for his expert opinion. In an email reply, Doobay said: “We confirm that we act for Mr Mallya but I am not able to make any comment at this time.” He did not respond to questions about Saez’s statement.
While Saez did not respond to phone calls or email, he has, in his statement, said: “I confirm that this report is addressed to the court and relevant authorities, having received instructions from Mr Anand Doobay and on behalf of Boutique Law LLP in connection with the ongoing extradition proceedings against Dr Mallya”.
Sáez is Professor in the Political Economy of Asia in the Department of Politics at SOAS. “I am a leading expert on the government and politics of South Asia and, in 2017, I was elected by my peers as the executive director of the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS), the world’s leading learned society of South Asian studies… I have lectured on the subject of India’s federal system, subnational politics, banking reform and inter-governmental relations at the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University,” Saez has said.
“In my capacity as an expert on the region, I have provided testimony to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK House of Commons and participated in classified briefings to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Foreign and Commonwealth office and the US National Intelligence Council,” he has added.