London: The extradition hearing of Indian businessman 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 Mr. Mallya to India based on allegations of fraud, and money laundering.
The case has now been pushed back till late January at the earliest. Mr. Mallya is bailed 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 involved a highly technical dissection of individual statements and sections of evidence and British and Indian case law. The defence sought to contest the portrayal of certain conversations between Mr. Mallya and his lawyers as a “blueprint” for dishonesty.
Lead barrister Clare Montgomery sought to challenge the prosecution’s suggestion that privilege didn’t 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.
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.
Ms. Montgomery also argued at length against the use of 161 statements, which form a major plank 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 Mr. Mallya.
Ms. 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.