Mallya loses appeal in British High Court

Businessman Vijay Mallya lost an appeal in Britain’s High Court on Monday against a 2018 decision of a lower court to extradite him to India to face charges of misrepresentation, fraud, and money laundering, causing losses up to nearly Rs.9,000 crore to banks Mallya, liquor baron and former boss of Kingfisher Airlines, has 14 days to apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court after Monday’s judgment by the Queen’s Bench division agreed that a prima facie case has been made out against him. The judgment handed down on Monday marks an impressive victory for India in the quest to get Mallya extradited from the UK.

Justice Irwin and Justice Laing described the December 2018 judgment by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court as “impressive, well-structured and thoroughly judicial approach”, raising the bar much higher for Mallya’s legal team. During the three-day appeal hearing in February 2020, Clare Montgomery, representing Mallya, had punched holes in the lower court’s judgment saying it was marked with multiple errors that led to a wrong conclusion. Mallya is now on a countdown with his legal team battling against time to apply for permission to appeal in the Supreme Court.

“If he doesn’t appeal (he faces) removal within 28 days thereafter. If he appeals, we wait for the outcome on that application,” said a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson. The appeal is usually allowed in cases where an arguable point of law of general public importance is involved. This is a rather tall order as Mallya’s defence so far has been to point out lacunae on factual accuracy, which the two-judge bench has emphatically dismissed.

Mallya will have to go back to the Queen’s Bench Division for permission to appeal against the judgment in the Supreme Court. If that permission is declined, he has the option to move to the Supreme Court directly.

Mallya arrived to the UK in March 2016, following which India started extradition proceedings against him. In April 2017, he was arrested and brought to the Westminster Magistrates’ court where he was granted bail on a hefty bond of £650,000 (Rs.6.2 crore). Following a closely-followed trial, Emma Arbuthnot the chief magistrate found that there was a prima facie case made out by the Government of India.

Mallya went for an appeal in the high court which was first unsuccessful as, in April 2019, his application heard on paper was rejected. He made a renewed attempt for an oral hearing, laying out five grounds against the magistrate’s decision. On 2 July, 2019, a two-judge bench rejected four grounds but granted permission to appeal on the ground that the evidence provided by India was not sufficient to make out a prima facie case against Mallya.

On 11, 12 and 13 February, 2020 the appeal was heard which had some moments of heated exchange between Montgomery and Mark Summers, the CPS counsel. The court has reserved judgment and had asked for additional submissions in the case which was repeatedly described as ‘dense’. Officers from the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and the Indian High Commission were present as has been all through the case.

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