LONDON: Exiled Kingfishertycoon Vijay Mallya’s defence team claims that the CBI has brought a “series of false statements” against him, as arguments over the admissibility of the prosecution evidence flared up in court.
Mallya’s defence, barrister Clare Montgomery QC, on Friday argued that much of the Indian government’s evidence was inadmissible according to UK criminal standards because many of the witness statements were repetitious and “similar”. She also said some of the evidence had no affidavit explaining the circumstances in which it was taken and banking officials not involved with Mallya’s case had given evidence.
She added Mallya “remained willing to discuss settlement” with the banks and “it is the premier investigating of India, the CBI, that has brought a series of false statements,” she said.
The government of India put forward a robust defence of its evidence against Mallya, who they are trying to extradite, accusing him of fraud and money laundering after defaulting on loans from Indian banks worth Rs 9,000 crore.
Speaking at Westminster magistrates’ court, prosecuting barrister Mark Summers QC, representing the government, said the witness statements did comply with English evidence rules and hearsay evidence was allowed.
He said it was local practice in India that “people spoke to documents” and then police offices produced it. “So long as the witness is competent to speak to the document in question then it is entirely proper for the government to produce those statements. The fact some banking officials were not involved in the transactions at the time is not relevant. They identify the documents they are speaking about.”
He said some evidence was written by professionals from “premier national agencies in India” ED and CBI — “despite a broadside attack on them” — who were in a position to “summarise that evidence”. He said their job was to provide evidence justifying he should face trial in India, not the evidence to be used in the trial.
“We have produced a lot of evidence — we would have been criticised if we had not done that. These are banking officials talking to the same banking records, so it is unsurprising they are formulaic.”
The Indian government also submitted reports on the natural light and the height of the ceiling fans at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where Mallya will be held if extradited.
But Montgomery said she had “concerns about the reliability and truthfulness of these photos and evidence”.
On the subject of allegations of a bank conspiracy, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “It is blindingly obvious rules are being broken and the banks ignored their own guidelines before giving loans.”