Mallya 'tip-off possibility' pops up

Ex-AG airs suspicion

By Imran Ahmed Siddiqui
  • Published 14.09.18


Ganesh hears people a lot because he has big ears. But there is a filter in his ears. He directs all bad things to his belly, not bothered that it gets big, and propagates only good things. This should be the character of a (BJP) worker

Narendra Modi
to booth-level BJP workers on Thursday. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event organised by Niti Aayog in New Delhi on September 7. (PTI)

New Delhi: Former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi said on Thursday that "there is a possibility" liquor baron Vijay Mallya was "tipped off", which let him flee the country on March 2, 2016.

"There is a possibility that somebody may have tipped him off about the banks moving the debt recovery tribunal against him," Rohatgi told The Telegraph.

The former attorney-general made no reference to the controversy triggered by the confirmation of an encounter between Mallya and finance minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament before the loan defaulter fled.

But the disclosure by Rohatgi about his suspicion of a tip-off reflects the gravity of the unanswered questions swirling around Mallya's flight, which have assumed greater significance after the finance minister himself confirmed that an encounter did take place before the defaulter escaped.

The sequence of stated events deepens the controversy:

March 1, 2016: Although Mallya has not specified the date of his encounter with Jaitley, a Congress MP has said he saw the two together in Central Hall of Parliament on March 1.

March 2, 2016: Banks to which Mallya owes Rs 9,000 crore move a tribunal in Bangalore for recovering the dues.

March 2, 2016: On the very same day, Mallya leaves for London, heading for the destination he claims to have informed the finance minister of.

March 8, 2016: The consortium moves the Supreme Court to freeze the passport of Mallya, who had reached London nearly a week earlier.

September 13, 2018: Mallya claims he had told Jaitley during their "innocent" encounter that he would be leaving for London.

The London trip claim by Mallya, revealed while clarifying that his exchange with Jaitley was informal and "innocent", has muddied the waters further. The Opposition is now asking why Jaitley did not alert law-enforcement agencies if he was privy to such information.

Jaitley has already indirectly denied Mallya's claim by insisting that the exchange was limited to "one sentence" on a loan settlement offer. However, after Mallya came out with the specific claim that he told Jaitley of the London trip, the finance minister had not directly contested the version till Thursday night.

Neither has the BJP explicitly denied Mallya's claim, confining itself to saying "a culprit" cannot be trusted and has no credibility. Ironically, when the same Mallya made the initial claim that he had met Jaitley, the finance minister found it important enough to issue a lengthy rebuttal adorned with the phrase "factually false".

Unlike his party, BJP parliamentarian Subramanian Swamy appears to have taken Mallya's claim at face value.

Swamy, a critic of Jaitley, tweeted on Thursday: "We have now two undeniable facts on the Mallya escape issue: 1. Look Out Notice was diluted on Oct 24, 2015 from "Block" to "Report" departure enabling Mallya to depart with 54 checked luggage items. 2. Mallya told FM in Central Hall of Parliament that he was leaving for London."

Swamy was referring to the CBI lookout notice to the bureau of immigration. The CBI had initially sought detention of Mallya but later asked the bureau to merely inform it of his movements. Had the notice not been diluted, Mallya would not have been able to leave on March 2, 2016.