Absconding bank fraud accused Vijay Mallya dropped a bomb on Wednesday by claiming that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before fleeing out of the country and offered to settle the amount he owed to the banks.
“I met the finance minster to settle matters before I left. The banks had filed objections to my settlement letters,” Mallya said outside the Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he had come for a hearing in his extradition case.
Mallya added that he had made a “comprehensive settlement” offer before the Karnataka High Court that will help in paying off all his dues.
The revelation puts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre on the backfoot. At the time of writing, the Finance Minister or any member of the government was yet to respond to the allegation.
In 2016, Arun Jaitley had said that there is a legal process to stop somebody from going abroad.
“Either your passport is impounded or there is an order of a court. Otherwise, nobody can stop you. Banks went to court for seeking an order. In this anticipation, he (Mallya) left earlier,” Jaitley had said, adding that “it would have been better had banks started the process earlier.”
The liquor baron is facing money laundering charges in multi-crore fraud case in India, which wants him extradited from the UK where he fled to in March 2016.
Dressed in a suit and wearing his shades, Mallya appeared relaxed even as the judge is expected to review a video of the Mumbai jail cell prepared by the Indian authorities for the embattled liquor tycoon.
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airline boss, who has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year, responded to the swarm of reporters gathered outside the court in his characteristic manner, saying the “courts will decide”.
“As far as I am concerned, I have. I hope the honourable judges will consider it favourably; everybody gets paid off and I guess that’s the primary objective,” said Mallya, who is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores.
According to Mallya, he and the United Breweries Group (UBHL) have filed an application in the Karnataka High Court on 22 June 2018, setting out available assets of approximately Rs 13,900 crores. They have asked the court for permission to allow the sale of assets under judicial supervision and repay creditors, including the Public Sector Banks such amounts as may be directed and determined by the Court.
The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on 4 December last year, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya.
It also seeks to prove there are no “bars to extradition” and that the tycoon is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crores in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.
In separate legal proceedings, the businessman lost his appeal in the UK’s Court of Appeal against a High Court order in favour of 13 Indian banks to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds.
The High Court order in favour of the State Bank of India (SBI) led consortium had reinforced a worldwide freezing order against Mallya’s assets. It was followed by a related enforcement order in June, granting permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya’s properties in Hertfordshire, near London, where he has been based since he left India in March 2016.
(With inputs from agencies.)