‘Blindingly Obvious’ that Indian Banks Flouted Guidelines, Says UK Judge in Mallya Case
Judge Emma Arbuthnot described the case as a "jigsaw puzzle" comprising different pieces of "massive evidence."
There are clear signs that banks went against their own guidelines while sanctioning some loans to Vijay Mallya, UK judge Emma Arbuthnot said while presiding over the extradition hearing of the liquor baron at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on March 16.
The judge added that she would seek more clarification from India regarding some documents, and added that it is “blindingly obvious” that banks did not follow their own guidelines while sanctioning loans to the Kingfisher Airlines’ owner, the Hindu reported.
“There are clear signs that the banks seem to have gone against their own guidelines (in sanctioning some of the loans),” said Arbuthnot. She described the case as a “jigsaw puzzle” comprising different pieces of “massive evidence” to be put together to paint a picture, which she said she could now see “more clearly” than a few months ago, according to PTI.
Arbuthnot invited the Indian authorities to give more explanation regarding the case against some of the bank officials involved since that is linked to the “conspiracy” point against Mallya.
The judge also made the court aware of an “unsolicited” email correspondence in Hindi received from India, adding that it is a language she “unfortunately” does not understand. Responding to that, the defense team said that all sides in the case had been getting such unsolicited correspondence.
Mentioning that Mallya had “chosen not to give evidence” in the case, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) counsel Mark Summers rejected the claims of the defense on the evidence as “nonsense.” “The government of India has established by other copious evidence a prima facie case of fraud,” said Summers.
The CPS, that represents the Indian government, presented arguments against the defense that raised its doubts regarding some of the evidence submitted by the Indian authorities.
Mallya’s counsel Clare Montgomery argued that the evidence that was claimed as a “blueprint of dishonesty” by the CPS was a privileged conversation between Mallya and his lawyer regarding “legal advice in clear contemplation of litigation” and should be inadmissible. The judge said she was still uncertain about admitting that correspondence.
Mallya’s defense team questioned the trustworthiness of investigating officers in the case, on a different category of evidence that the Indian government has presented, pointing to over 150 pages of “near identical material” claiming to be a statement of witnesses taken under Section 161 of the Indian CrPC.
“They do not appear to be in any way an account of things that witnesses would have said but rather seem to be somebody else’s analysis put into the mouths of the witnesses, down to the spelling mistakes,” said Montgomery. She added that the documents were identically reproduced with not just identical words, but also the same typing errors, the PTI report said.
The judge, however, was not convinced by this argument. She noted that she had found only two-three instances of mistakes and that she did not see a “problem” in the statements’ preparation.
The CPS said that the defense is trying to tarnish the reputation of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate, that are “premier national agencies,” and the evidence provided by them.
During the last hearing in January, Montgomery had objected to the admissibility of documents or evidence and also questioned the witness statements recorded under section 161 Code of Criminal Procedure (before the investigators), since it is not admissible in a court of law in India, the Times of India had reported earlier.
Meanwhile, on March 6, a luxury superyacht worth $93 million owned by Mallya was seized by authorities in Malta over his failure to pay more than $1 million in wages to the crew. Mallya had reportedly abandoned the 95-meter vessel after his arrest in the United Kingdom on an extradition warrant. Mallya fled to the United Kingdom in 2016, and his extradition is now being sought by the Indian government.