Vijay Mallya outside the court.

Vijay Mallya outside the court.

Mallya moment: Claims he met Jaitley before leaving India; offered to settle dues

I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks; that's the truth: Vijay Mallya

Agency Report | London/New Delhi | 12 September, 2018 | 07:30 PM

Absconding tycoon Vijay Mallya, wanted on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore, has claimed he had met the Union finance minister before leaving India and that he made repeated offers to settle issues. His statement triggered a political storm, with the Congress and other opposition parties saying it was proof of corrupt businessmen fleeing the country with the collusion of the government. Mallya decided to reveal this little nugget more than two years after he fled the country in March 2016. The Finance Minister Mallya says he met was Arun Jaitley who has always denied having done so. Mallya also once known as the King of Good Times decided to drop this bomb when he casually came out of the court for a smoke and was surrounded by the media.

“I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva, I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks… that’s the truth,” Mallya told reporters outside London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where his extradition case is being heard.

Mallya has challenged an extradition request filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the UK, alleging that the condition in Indian jails is not humane. He, however, refused to divulge the details of the meeting.

The 62-year-old tycoon also said he has made a “very comprehensive offer” before the Karnataka High Court, “so that everybody gets paid”.

The Congress and other opposition parties immediately targetted the government.

Demanding the details of Mallya’s meeting with the finance minister, the Congress said, “Mallya’s comment he met Jaitley confirms our assertion that govt was fully complicit in the flight of people like him and others. The government must explain how Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave India”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a tweet, said, “Finance Minister ought to respond. Obviously, PM knew about it.”

Last month, during his visit to the UK, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the Narendra Modi government is going easy on some businessmen like Vijay Mallya. “Before Mallya left India, he met senior BJP leaders. That is documented. I won’t name them,” Rahul Gandhi had told reporters in London.

Responding to Mallya’s statement, government sources said that Mallya was lying about meeting anyone. They claim that on the day Mallya fled India, he came to Parliament and wanted to meet PM Modi. The prime minister had a busy schedule and thus did not meet Mallya. Mallya then is said to have “accosted” Jaitley in the corridor. Jaitley, however, did not respond.

It would be relevant to note that a day after the tycoon left India, BJP president Amit Shah had said that a probe would be on to fix responsibility for Vijay Mallya leaving the country.

Answering questions at the India Today conclave, Shah had said it was a mistake that Mallya had left the country.

“By whose mistake he left the country, this is being probed. He left the country, this was a mistake,” Shah had said.

Mallya left the country on March 2, days before a group of creditor-banks led by the State Bank of India moved the Supreme Court to restrain him from leaving India.

A consortium of 17 banks led by the State Bank of India wanted the liquor baron to be arrested for not repaying about Rs 9,000 crore he had borrowed.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley too had then said that every penny due from Mallya to state-run banks would be recovered.

The Congress had attacked the government over Mallya leaving the country and had asked it to act against those public officials and politicians who “helped” the businessman leave the country. (IANS)