London, September 12: Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya said on Wednesday he met the Finance Minister before leaving India.
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airline boss, who arrived to appear before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, told reporters that he had met the minister and offered to settle the issue with the banks.
#WATCH: Vijay Mallya outside London Court clarifies on his statement that he met Finance Minister before leaving from the country, says “I happened to meet Mr Jaitley in Parliament & told him that I am leaving for London… I did not have any formal meetings scheduled with him.” pic.twitter.com/U0ZnbKXrnM
— ANI (@ANI) September 12, 2018
“I left India because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. Before leaving I met the finance minister and offered to settle (the issue with the banks), Mallya said, without naming the minister.
Arun Jaitley was the Finance Minister in 2016 when Mallya left India.
The remarks by Mallya came as he arrived at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a hearing in his extradition case, during which 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 crore.
According to Mallya, he and the United Breweries Group (UBHL) have filed an application in the Karnataka High Court on June 22, 2018, setting out available assets of approximately Rs 13,900 crore. 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 December 4 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 crore 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.
Jaitley claimed the statement was “factually false”. His Facebook post, which came within minutes of Mallya’s remarks, dismissed the statement as not entirely “reflecting the truth”. Jaitley instead claimed that Mallya caught up with him outside Rajya Sabha, of which the embattled liquor baron was a member until he resigned on May 4, 2016, one day in the wake of the allegations.
The post did, however, admit that Mallya made an offer of settlement.
“My attention has been drawn to a statement made to the media by Vijay Mallaya on having met me with an offer of settlement,” Jaitley’s post read. “The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth. Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise. However, since he was a Member of Rajya Sabha and he occasionally attended the House, he misused that privilege on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that ”I am making an offer of settlement”. Having been fully briefed about his earlier “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.” I did not even receive the papers that he was holding in his hand. Besides this one sentence exchange where he misused his privilege as a Rajya Sabha Member, in order to further his commercial interest as a bank debtor, there is no question of my having ever given him an appointment to meet me.”
Mallya endorsed Jaitley’s version saying: “I happened to meet Mr.Jaitley in Parliament and told him that I am leaving for London. I did not have any formal meetings scheduled with him”.
By then, however, Opposition Congress had found their weapon in Mallya’s statements. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi demanded an explanation from the central government on why Mallya was allowed to leave the country.
“The government should now explain how and why he was allowed to leave and what transpired at those meetings. The nation wants to know,” he said, accusing the government of being complicit in Mallya’s flight.