The extradition case of controversial businessman Vijay Mallya has reached a concluding stage with a final hearing scheduled for Tuesday, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of India and the defence are due to present final submissions.
The case is being heard before chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot in the Westminster Magistrates Court, with Mallya attending almost every hearing. He has suffered legal setback in a separate court case related to debt recovery brought by 13 banks.
A CPS spokesperson said: “The next hearing is on July 31. On that day the Senior District Judge will hear final submissions. Judgment will be reserved until a future date (to be arranged)”.
The judgment that will include a recommendation to the home secretary under the Extradition Act, 2003, is likely to be delivered in September, when the court resumes after the summer recess; both sides will have opportunities to appeal.
Before making final oral submissions, both teams — the CPS team led by Mark Summers and the defence led by Claire Montgomery – were expected to file written submissions. The case involves thousands of pages of documents, mainly related to the loans extended by IDBI and other banks to Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya’s defence has raised four objections to his extradition: absence of a prima facie case, extraneous considerations, human rights and abuse of process. These relate to alleged political witch-hunt, prison conditions breaching human rights, inability to get a fair hearing in an Indian court and lack of a case to answer.
The defence team produced several witnesses to substantiate the four objections, including alleged mistreatment and violation of human rights in the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, if extradited.
The Indian side has submitted a range of visual and written documentation, as well as sovereign assurances, seeking to satisfy the judge that his human rights would not be breached in the high security barrack number 12 in the jail.
While Mallya’s side has claimed that loans could not be returned due to genuine business failure, the CPS team alleges “chapters of dishonesty” on his part not only in obtaining the loans but also the dispersal of the funds for purposes contrary for which they were disbursed.
The figure due from Mallya is often mentioned as Rs 9,000 crore, which includes a substantial component of interest, and interest on interest. The main allegation concerns the loans of Rs 1500 million, Rs 2000 million and Rs 7500 million extended during October and November 2009.
Mallya issued a statement on June 26, expressing frustration at India’s alleged refusal to accept his offer to settle the bank loans. He has also made recent representations in Indian courts to repay the loans, while 13 Indian banks seek to recover them through his assets in the UK.
Mallya arrived in London on March 2, 2016 in the wake of allegations in India of financial irregularities. India’s extradition request was certified by the home secretary on February 21, 2017; he was arrested and bailed on April 18, 2017.
A series of hearings began in the Westminster Magistrates Court in June 2017. Almost every hearing has been attended by officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and the Indian high commission.
The case is on the verge of conclusion, but the Mallya story is unlikely to end anytime soon.
There is the option to appeal in the high court and the Supreme 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 grounds of human rights.
There is also the precedent of Tiger Hanif, who is wanted in connection with two blasts in Gujarat in 1993; he lost legal bids to avoid extradition (the last in April 2013), but made a final representation to the home secretary, who is yet to take a decision.
The Mallya case is significant in the context of the India-UK extradition treaty of 1993. Only one individual has since been extradited from the UK: Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, wanted in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat riots, extradited in October 2016.