LONDON: Vijay Mallya’s extradition trial is set to hear more expert witness statements today as the fugitive liquor tycoon’s defence seeks to establish that there are no grounds to force him to return to India to face allegations of fraud over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Lawrence Saez, a professor in the Department of Politics at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS) in London, is set to take the stand first at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning to give his expert opinion on the Indian political system.
His witness statement will be followed by the second half of the cross-examination of Paul Rex, the banking expert deposed by Mallya’s defence last week.
The trial, which opened at the London court on December 4, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against the 61-year-old embattled businessman, who has been based in the UK since March 2016.
It will also seek to prove that there are no “bars to extradition” and that Mr Mallya is assured a fair trial in India over his erstwhile airline’s alleged default of over Rs. 9,000 crores in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.
Yesterday, Judge Emma Arbuthnot had directed the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, to clearly lay out its case in its closing submissions because she feels “very uncertain” about how the Indian banks are involved in the wider case of “conspiracy” involving Mr Mallya.
Both sides are expected to wrap up proceedings later this week on Thursday, tomorrow marked as a non-sitting day.
Mr Mallya’s barrister, Clare Montgomery, has requested the judge for a short hearing after both sides hand in their written closing submissions to present brief oral submissions.
CPS barrister Mark Summers has indicated that he does not require time for oral as well as written submissions. The judge will determine the course of the closing arguments and a date for her ruling by Thursday, marked as the last day of the trial so far.
Besides the expert witness statements of Alan Mitchell on Indian prison conditions, the final day of the hearing on December 14 is expected to centre around arguments for and against the “admissibility” of some of the evidence presented by the Indian authorities which had been questioned by Mr Mallya’s defence.
Mr Mallya was arrested by Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant in April this year and has been out on bail on a bond worth 650,000 pounds.
Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot will present her ruling within a timeframe she sets out at the end of the trial. If she rules in favour of the Indian government, the UK home secretary will have to sign Mr Mallya’s extradition order within two months.
Both sides are expected to have the chance to appeal in higher courts in the UK against the chief magistrate’s verdict.