London, Oct 3 (PTI): Embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya was “re-arrested” on Tuesday in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India before being released on a 650,000 pounds bail by a court here. The 61-year-old flamboyant businessman, already out on bail on an extradition warrant executed by the Metropolitan Police earlier this year, was released on the same bail conditions as before to appear for his extradition hearing on December 4.
Speaking to PTI outside the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mallya said that he has “done nothing wrong” and described the allegations against him as “fabricated”. The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is arguing the case against Mallya on behalf of the Indian authorities, told the court the new charges were “supplemental” to the earlier fraud charges against him.
The new case gives evidence of the destination of the allegedly fraudulently obtained funds, some of which they claim may have landed in the Formula One team – Force India. “It is essentially about the ultimate destination of the funds… some of which we believe ended up in Force India Formula One,” said CPS barrister Mark Summers.
The previous fraud charges relate to Mallya’s now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines owing more than Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks. The UB Group chief has been on self-imposed exile in the UK since he left India on March 2, 2016.
The CPS told the court that the money laundering charges had been filed in India on June 14 and submitted as an evidence affidavit for the extradition case in the UK at the end of September. This resulted in the CPS technically re-filing its extradition request in court today, which has now “superseded” the previous ongoing case.
Judge, Chief Magistrate Emma Louise Arbuthnot, agreed to formally re-open a fresh case while keeping to the same time- table as set before. However, she concurred with Mallya’s defence team that there should be “nothing coming out of the woodwork” because if further evidence keeps coming in it could put the December 4 trial date at “risk”.
The CPS defended the Indian authorities over the issue, saying the new charges are linked to the original case. However, Ben Watson, arguing on behalf of Mallya, sought the court’s direction to ensure “nothing further” would be presented from the Indian side.
“We are very keen to keep the December hearing, something the government of India have pushed for. We can’t be served further evidence like this again…we are doing all we can to meet the timetable,” he said. Mallya’s team will now respond to the additional evidence by the end of October with further responses on both sides scheduled for early November in time for a pre-trial hearing on November 20.
The judge was sympathetic to the defence team, saying their request was “quite reasonable”. She then informed Mallya that he is freed on the “same bail conditions as before”, which he must abide by after the court clerk formally asked Mallya if he consented to be extradited to India on the charges and he responded with “no”.
The conditions of his bail include providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds, assuring the court of abiding by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, such as the surrender of his passport and a ban on him possessing any travel documents. He is exempt from appearing before the court now until his trial begins in December.
Arbuthnot has been hearing Mallya’s extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on his previous arrest warrant executed by Scotland Yard in April. She is scheduled to preside over the hearing listed for two weeks starting December 4. If she rules in favour of extradition at the end of the trial, the UK home secretary must order Mallya’s extradition within two months of the appropriate day.
However, the case can go through a series of appeals before arriving at a conclusion.
Sources in New Delhi said his arrest was pursuant to the extradition request made by the Indian government based on money laundering charges against Mallya. The ED in a statement said that the process for extradition of Mallya to ensure his presence during the trial of the offence of money laundering has been initiated by it.
“For the purpose, a fresh application for his extradition was routed through the Ministry of External Affairs which has since been filed before the concerned court in London,” it said. “The matter came up for hearing today. In pursuance of same Mallya has been arrested in pursuance of the fresh extradition request. He is already facing extradition proceedings in UK in a criminal case of CBI,” the ED said.
The statement added that the agency has attached assets worth Rs 9,890 crore (market value), under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), till now in connection with this case. India and the UK have an Extradition Treaty, signed in 1992, but so far only one extradition has taken place from the UK to India under the arrangement — Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, who was sent back to India last October to face trial in connection with his involvement in the post-Godhra riots of 2002.