Extradition case: London courts gives Mallya bail till April 2

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 12, 2018

Case pushed back amid arguments on admissibility of evidence

The extradition hearing of embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya continued on Thursday as the defence sought to challenge the admissibility of certain evidence, used by the prosecution in its efforts to return Mallya to India based on allegations of fraud, and money laundering.

The case has now been pushed back till late January at the earliest. Mallya is granted bail till April 2, and the next hearing, in which the defence will continue to contest the admissibility of evidence, will continue within the next three weeks, at a date to be determined.

The detailed challenge on Thursday – which involved a highly technical dissection of individual statements and sections of evidence and British and Indian case law – was carried out along two main lines.

‘Blueprint’ for dishonesty

The first sought to contest the portrayal of certain conversations between Mallya and his lawyers as a “blueprint” for dishonesty. The defence’s lead barrister Clare Montgomery sought to challenge the prosecution’s suggestion that privilege did not apply in the case, because of iniquity.

The prosecution had presented the evidence as a “blueprint for dishonesty” whereas it was “nothing of the sort” but “analysis of litigation” currently under way. “What is being described is the ordinary non-abusive use of lawyers,” she told the court on Thursday. Even if the evidence were admissible, she argued, they did not show what the prosecution purported they did, relating to relations with another bank and not related to the IDBI case under consideration by the court. Montgomery also argued at length against the use of 161 statements, which form a major part of the prosecution evidence.

Section 161 of the code of criminal procedure allows any police officer making an investigation to record the evidence of witnesses and are used throughout the prosecution case against Mallya.

Montgomery argued that under India’s extradition treaty obligations with Britain such statements needed to be accompanied by underlying signed witness statements, which they weren’t in this case.

She was also highly critical of the statements themselves, pointing to an array, that she argued didn’t represent a record of what a witness said but of “somebody else’s typed up assertions that are put into the mouths of witnesses identically down to the spelling mistakes,” pointing to how two witnesses had “spookily” sought to describe themselves in the same way.

The statements were also accompanied by documents such as bank statements “without source and providence” that did little to clarify their direct bearing on the case.

Rather than their own evidence being given, the witnesses had been required to sign up to pro-forma statements, which included the unsourced opinions of the officers recording them, she asserted.

During the course of the case, Montgomery cited case law in both Britain and India, including the failed extradition attempt of musician Nadeem Saifi.

Published on January 11, 2018

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