A defiant Vijay Mallya, wanted in India on loan defaults to several banks amounting to nearly Rs 9,000-crore, on Monday appeared before a local court in London for his pre-trial hearing where the liquor baron’s extradition hearing was confirmed for eight days starting December 4.
The 61-year-old businessman, out on bail on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard earlier this year, was released by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court judge on the same bail conditions and asked to appear in the court on December 4.
The extradition trial will last until December 14, with December 8 marked as a non-sitting day.
Speaking to reporters as he left today’s case management hearing, Mallya said, “it will all become clear in court”.
His defence team, headed by barrister Clare Montgomery, updated Judge Arbuthnot that the defence argument skeleton had been submitted last week and now “the ball is in the Indian government’s court” to present their reply by next week. She also presented the judge with a “running order” of witnesses to be deposed in the case, adding that the Indian authorities are “content with that order”.
Based on the defence timetable, the judge should be ready to rule on the case by December 24. However, given the tight timeline for both sides to submit their closing arguments in writing, the judge suggested scheduling a half-day hearing in January after the oral closing submissions to conclude the trial in the new year instead.
However, Mallya’s barrister was not in favour of that delay as that could lead to the Indian government presenting new material to the case and she said the defence was keen to “draw a line under all the material – evidential and non-evidential”. The judge concurred, saying “things have a habit of popping up” and has left things open for the moment.
Aaron Watkins, appearing for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of the Indian government, said as he was stepping in for CPS barrister Mark Summers, he would have to confirm the exact timeline with him.
Some of the witnesses on Mallya’s defence team’s list include Margaret Sweeney, chief accountant at Force India Formula One team, Prof Lau as an expert on the Indian legal system, aviation expert Dr Humphreys and prison conditions expert Dr Alan Mitchell. The case will open on December 4 with opening arguments and the witness statement of Dr Humphreys.
Mallya’s trial drama will be further enhanced on December 11 when American taxi hailing company Uber’s appeal against the revocation of its licence to operate in London comes up for its first hearing in the same court. Mallya has repeatedly stressed that he has done nothing wrong and will let the evidence speak in court.
The CPS had presented additional “supplemental” charges of money laundering to the previous charges of fraud at the last hearing in the case on October 3. The previous fraud charges relate to Mallya’s now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines owing more than Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks.
The UB Group chief has been on self-imposed exile in the UK since he left India on March 2, 2016. The CPS said it was technically re-filing its extradition request in court, after the new charges “superseded” the previous ongoing case.
The judge, Chief Magistrate Emma Louise Arbuthnot, agreed to formally re-open a fresh case while keeping to the same time-table as set before. However, she had concurred with Mallya’s defence team that if further evidence keeps coming in it could put the December 4 trial date at “risk” before releasing him on the same bail conditions as before.
The conditions of his bail include providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds, assuring the court of abiding by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, such as the surrender of his passport and a ban on him possessing any travel documents.
Arbuthnot has been hearing Mallya’s extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on his previous arrest warrant executed by Scotland Yard in April. If she rules in favour of extradition at the end of the trial, the UK home secretary must order Mallya’s extradition within two months. However, the case can go through a series of appeals before arriving at a conclusion.
India and the UK have an Extradition Treaty, signed in 1992, but so far only one extradition has taken place from the UK to India under the arrangement.
Judge Arbuthnot and her colleague, Rebecca Crane, at Westminster Magistrates’ court have rejected two other long-pending extradition requests from India recently, that of UK-based alleged bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla on October 16 and a British Indian couple, Jatinder and Asha Rani Angurala, on October 12, relating to bank fraud.