The final day of oral submissions in the extradition hearing of Vijay Mallya in London took a dramatic twist as the businessman revealed that he had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament before he left the country in March 2016.
Alongside reiterating his offer to settle with banks he also mentioned to Mr. Jaitley he would be leaving for London, he said.
“I met Mr. Jaitley in Parliament and told him I was going to London. Period,” Mr. Mallya said, just outside the court room as the hearing concluded on Wednesday afternoon.
However, he insisted that the issue was being turned into a controversy by “my friends in the media.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to anybody to create a controversy over this issue,” he added., accusing the media of trying to make something sensational out of a “perfectly innocent statement.” Later asked to recount details of the encounter he said he had also asked if Mr. Jaitley could facilitate discussions with the banks who he wished to settle with. “I did not have any formal meeting scheduled with him. I met him often enough in Parliament within the House and Central Hall and have expressed to him my willingness to settle on many an occasion,” said Mr. Mallya, who maintained that he had flown to London because he was on the way to a long-scheduled meeting in Geneva.
In response to his offer to settle Mr. Mallya said Mr. Jaitley had said nothing. “I wouldn’t expect him to say anything.”
He denied any suggestion that he had been “tipped off” by anyone before leaving the country. “I can confirm to you nobody tipped me off. There was no need to run.”
Earlier in a statement, Mr. Jaitley said: “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…”
He added that he had curtly told him there was no point talking to him and that he had to make offers to his bankers. “I did not even receive the papers that he was holding in his hand.”
The revelations came at the end of the closing oral submission hearing after which December 10 was set as the date for the final verdict in the case. Towards the end of the hearing, Judge Emma Arbuthnot remarked that for her the most important point to be considered was the prima facie case, suggesting that issues such as political motivations and jail conditions would be less relevant.
Mr. Mallya’s defence team concluded oral closing submissions branding the government case as “nonsense” and “bizarre”, and accused the CBI of having been “forced to file charges,” against him.
‘Financial disaster for Mr. Mallya’
Referring to media reports that CBI special director Rakesh Asthana had gone to the head of banks and threatened them with reprisals if they did not file charges against Mr. Mallya, Defence Barrister Clare Montgomery referred to Mr. Asthana “solemnly sitting in court.” “If that were a false piece of news you’d have thought it would be dealt with,” she said. She also accused the prosecution of “refusing” to provide all documentation relevant to the case including those that would have revealed other appraisals of the state of affairs at Kingfisher Airways, as well as of making a number of “false allegations.”
“This is a financial disaster for [Mr. Mallya] as much as for the banks,” Ms. Montgomery told Ms. Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, following a two-hour closing submission by her in which she focused on attempting to take down four planks of the government case. She sought to challenge the suggestion that false information about profitability had been provided to the bank to obtain the loans in question. “Full, complete and accurate” information was provided and the company’s eventual failure arose from macro-economic problems facing the global airline industry, she said pointing to other airlines that had revised their forecasts over time because of changing macro-conditions. The suggestion that there was a “secret pocket of knowledge” within Kingfisher Airways on the state of the business was “utterly unfounded.” She went in-depth into questions around the value of and information on securities that had been provided to the bank to back up the loan, suggesting that some such as the negative lien on 12 aircrafts were “symbolic.” She challenged the suggestion that the loan was used in ways contrary to the way it was intended to – arguing that the specific requirements imposed on it that was suggested by the government had not in fact been placed. She also challenged the contention that Mallya had taken out the loan with no intention of ever repaying it — insisting that by reference to the government’s own material — it was “perfectly obvious” that it had been taken out with a view to successfully running the airline.
She also dismissed the video provided by Indian authorities on lighting conditions at Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, insisting it was clear from comparing the video to previous images that someone had done a “hasty clean up job” to provide a “varnished version “ of prison conditions. “This is a case for a prison visit. There is no down side to it,” she said.
It was not the government’s case that Mr. Mallya never intended to repay the loan — only that if the business did fail he wasn’t going to repay them, prosecution barrister Mark Summers told the court. The judge’s role was to decide whether a “reasonable jury” could reject the kind of alternative explanation advanced to her by Mr. Mallya’s legal team, he said. He challenged the picture built up by Ms. Montgomery insisting the whole picture of what Kingfisher Airlines knew was “radically different’ to what was presented to the banks, and that the suggestion they were aware of securities being symbolic was not the case. The conclusion to be drawn from the misrepresentation of the value of securities was that they “never intended to be honoured,” he said.