London: Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores, will return to court here today on day two of his extradition trial during which his defence team will begin laying out its counter-arguments against the case. The 61-year-old will be back in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for his defence, headed by barrister Clare Montgomery, to present its opening arguments followed by the witness statement of aviation expert Dr Humphreys.
On the opening day of the trial, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, had asserted that the embattled liquor baron had a "case of fraud" to answer. The prosecution had laid out what it termed as "three chapters of dishonesty" by the former Kingfisher Airlines boss – the first being misrepresentations to various banks to acquire loans, then how he misused the money and finally his conduct after the banks recalled the loans.
"Instead of acting as an honest person and doing what he could to meet his obligations, he sets about erecting lines of defence," said CPS barrister Mark Summers. The charge of money laundering, for which Mallya had been re-arrested in October, is being focussed on by CPS less at this stage. Summers told the court that the Indian government says there are reasons why a court can conclude that the bank loans at the centre of the fraud case were ones the "defendant (Mallya) never intended to repay". While Kingfisher Airlines and the airline industry were in "intensive care", Mallya chose to palm off the losses to banks, in particular, state-owned banks.
The opening day's proceedings were concluded with an assertion by the CPS that it had “shown by virtue of evidence a prima facie case” against Mallya and the hearing should now move to the next phase of any "bars to extradition". The next phase is when factors such as prison conditions in India are likely to take centre-stage. The CPS had earlier admitted that there may have been "irregularities" in the internal processes of the banks sanctioning some of those loans but that would be a question to be dealt with at a later stage in India.
"The focus of our case will be on his (Mallya's) conduct and how he misled the bank and misused the proceeds," Summers said, as he presented a detailed chronology of events with a specific focus on a loan sought by Kingfisher Airlines from IDBI bank in November 2009. Mallya, who was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant in April this year, has been out on bail on a bond worth 650,000 pounds.
His trial is scheduled to end on December 14, with Wednesday and Friday marked non-sitting days. A timeframe for a judgement in the case, being presided over by Judge Emma Louise Arbuthnot, will be determined only at the end of the trial and once the closing arguments have been made. The tycoon has been in a self-imposed exile in the UK since he left India on March 2, 2016.
If the judge 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 in higher UK courts before arriving at a conclusion.