Closing submissions in Vijay Mallya’s extradition trial will take place on July 11, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said, with the judgment expected soon afterwards.
“Everything is in (admissible) except for LLP (legal professional privilege),” Arbuthnot said. She was referring to emails Mallya had exchanged with his Indian lawyers, which will not be admissible, for now. The prosecution had sought for those emails, which would normally be privileged, to become part of their evidence, claiming they proved Mallya had fraudulent plans to avoid his liabilities to the banks.
However, Mallya’s lawyer, Ben Watson, who from the outset has questioned the admissibility of the prosecution evidence, pointed out there was still no “log from a police officer” on much of it. To which Arbuthnot replied: “I am content on admissibility if it is covered by a statement from an officer.” She also asked for affidavits regarding money laundering, which were missing.
Mark Summers QC, representing the government of India, undertook to get statements attesting to the accuracy of their evidence within seven days, to which Watson would have 10 days to respond.
Summers then submitted fresh evidence of a “conspiracy note” to the court which detailed the role of former IDBI Bank deputy managing director B.K. Batra, who in 2009 played a
key role in sanctioning loans to Mallya from IDBI
+ . Summers said it provided a motive for the banks’ involvement in a conspiracy with Mallya.
“Batra’s assets are recorded at the end of 2007 and 2008, and by the end of 2016, he has about £100,000 more and no explanation. It’s evidence from which certain inference could be drawn. If you are looking for a motive, this is an answer,” Summers said.
“Mr Batra is portrayed as a villain who has made some money out of it apparently. The conspiracy notes set out inferences I can draw. I am not sure whether Batra got any money. But if there are corrupt people involved and money has gone into their account, it’s not relevant,” Arbuthnot said.
Mallya, 62, carried a tin of thin cigars into court and drank Evian mineral water as he watched the proceedings. Before the case began he had said in Hindi: “The
media have already married me and put me in jail.”
His long-term girlfriend, Pinky Lalwani, arrived with him in his car. Outside court, when asked by TOI if she had married Mallya or not, she said, “Maybe I have.” Mallya refused to answer questions on this, and on the whereabouts of his Tipu sword.
Watson submitted supplementary evidence on Indian prison conditions to the court and said the defence request to see the prison manual of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where Mallya would be housed, and their letter, had gone unanswered.
The additional evidence included statements from one of the Chennai Six, Briton John Armstrong, 30, who spent four years in Puzhal Prison in Tamil Nadu before he was acquitted last year. During the trial the court had heard about his alleged mistreatment in jail, which included being locked in a mental hospital and forcibly given drugs, being given inadequate food, and how he and his co-defendants were denied medical treatment.
The Indian prison authorities rebuffed these allegations but Armstrong submitted a further statement as a “riposte”.
Summers said he had no plans to “engage with this further” and added they had answered the judge’s concerns over the ceiling fan height and access to natural light in Arthur Road Jail and did not think “a prison manual would assist anyone”.
But Watson had questions about the “veracity of the material” the Indian government had provided, saying one photo showed “a bright pool of light and a silhouette of a window in a picture but the “bars on the silhouette were a different number” to the bars on the cell window, which “causes concern that this does not present a true, accurate picture”. He added that there were a “whole host of other issues”.
“It is the assurances the court will rely on more than the prison manual,” Arbuthnot said, adding Puzhal was a “different prison”.
But Watson said “prison rules are key to the assurances” the Indian government is providing as “they may refer back to them”.
Outside court, Mallya, rattled by the media, said: “I have nothing more to add. The judge will decide what the judge wants to decide. I am not going to speculate. Why are you wasting my time?” When asked about the ED move to confiscate his assets in India, he said: “Now you want me to comment on Indian news. You probably watch a lot more than I do.”