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'I have money, but shouldn't have to pay back'

February 16, 2009 23:01 IST

Ripudman Singh Malik, one of the accused in the Air India tragedy, who was acquitted of all charges by the British Columbia supreme court in 2005, reportedly says he has money but he shouldn't have to pay back millions of dollars in legal fees -- that the tax payers paid for him for the lengthy legal battle.

The taxpayers have already paid close to $ 7.5 million for Malik's legal defense, who's net worth is $20-million. Malik asked for help as he said during the trial he didn't have money, as his entire money was under the control of his wife and family members.

In an earlier interview with Indian Abroad in 2005, the British Columbia attorney general, Wally Oppal explained that "The Legal Services Society, with the attorney general ministry, undertook to finance Malik's trial. There was a court order to fund the trial.  So, we had to do that under court orders.''

Oppal, however, emphasised that the "government is also entitled to collect those monies from the people if they have it, and we are now making efforts to do just that''. 

"We have a mortgage against Mr. Malik," Oppal, the highest law enforcement officer in British Columbia, added.

The question is how could Malik now turn around and say that he has the money but he shouldn't be asked to repay $ 7.5-million back to the taxpayers. 

Malik's attorney has gone to the BC appeal court conceding that his client has millions in assets from the two properties, including a business in Vancouver and a hotel in Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, as quoted in a report by the Canadian Press.

The government, reportedly froze Malik's assets in an attempt to get the back the money from him, but the appeal court will hear his appeal of that decision next month.

Ajit Jain in Toronto