Jaitley denies Mallya’s claim that he met FM before leaving India; extradition decision in Dec

Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya said Wednesday that he met India’s finance minister before leaving the country in 2016, a claim denied by Arun Jaitley as “factually false.”

By TT Bureau in London
  • Published 12.09.18
Vijay Mallya smokes outside Westminster Magistrates Court during a break for lunch as he attends a hearing at the court in London, on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

London, Sept. 12 (PTI & Reuters): Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya said Wednesday that he met India’s finance minister before leaving the country in 2016, a claim denied by Arun Jaitley as “factually false.”

Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines went belly up and left a clutch of Indian banks with bad loans of nearly Rs 9,000 crore, was asked by reporters if he had been “tipped off” to leave the country.

“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 is the truth,” he responded, without naming the minister.

He was speaking outside the Westminster Magistrates Court, which is hearing the Indian government’s demand for his extradition. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot will deliver her verdict on December 10 on whether Mallya is to be extradited to India.

Arun Jaitley, who was finance minister in 2016 when Mallya left India, denied the liquor baron's claim.

“Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post.

”The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth,” he said.

Jaitley said Mallya “misused” the privilege of being a Rajya Sabha member to bump into him in Parliament on one occasion while he was walking out of the House to go to his room.

He said Mallya, while walking alongside, “uttered a sentence that 'I am making an offer of settlement'. Having being fully briefed about his 'bluff offers', without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him 'there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers.'”

In London, Mallya told reporters the media should question the banks why they are not supporting him in his efforts to repay.

”I have said before that I am a political football. There is nothing that I can do about it. My conscience is clear and (I) put almost Rs 15,000 crore worth of assets on the table of the Karnataka High Court,” he said.

Mallya has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year and is fighting extradition on charges of fraud and money laundering.

Mallya’s lawyer told the court on Wednesday that the Indian government has failed to provide any substantial evidence to justify extraditing Mallya from Britain to face fraud charges.

His lawyer Clare Montgomery said India had failed to provide enough evidence to form a “prima facie” case against him necessary to warrant his extradition.

The Indian government says Kingfisher took out a series of loans from Indian banks, including IDBI Bank, with the aim of palming off huge losses which Mallya knew the failing airline was going to sustain.

It argues that Mallya, who moved to Britain in March 2016, had no intention of repaying money it borrowed from IDBI in 2009 and the loans had been taken out under false pretensions, on the basis of misleading securities and with the money spent differently to how the bank had been told.

Montgomery said the evidence she and the Indian government had provided showed Kingfisher had been clear about what the loans were for - to secure the airline's viable future - and that it had been open about its losses.