Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya claimed privilege in the Supreme Court from divulging details of his overseas assets to his debtor banks, saying a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) like him is not obliged to disclose riches abroad even in “Indian income tax returns”.
In a 41-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday, Mr. Mallya said his lenders have no right to seek information about his assets abroad as well as the assets of his children, who are U.S. citizens, and estranged wife, who is also an NRI.
Moreover, he argued that these assets were never considered by the banks while granting loans or restructuring the loans of Kingfisher Airlines and there was no reason to grant the banks any access to them.
He however revealed that the net estimated current value of the overseas assets of himself, his wife and children aggregate to $114.571 million or around Rs.780 crore. He said specific details of these assets would be handed over to the court on April 26, the next date of hearing, in a sealed envelope.
> Read: Kingfisher Airlines crisis: Timeline
Mr. Mallya was responding to an order passed by a Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman to disclose assets in India and abroad of himself and his wife and children. In the order passed on April 7, the Bench had also wanted to know when the businessman, believed to be abroad, would return and be present in the Supreme Court to kick-off negotiations to settle the carrier's debts running up to Rs. 9,000 crore.
Supreme Court versus Centre
But Mr. Mallya played the victim card, pitting the government against the apex court.
Denying that he had absconded, Mallya said the government's suspension of his passport without even hearing him first and the subsequent issuance of non-bailable warrant against him has in effect made void the Supreme Court's efforts to pave the way for his return to India and work out a settlement with his lenders.
“The very basis of the April 7 order has been obliterated by the Ministry of External Affairs by suspending Vijay Mallya's passport by its letter dated April 15, 2016. This was followed by the Enforcement Directorate obtaining a non-bailable warrant against Vijay Mallya on April 18, 2016 on a demonstrably false case against him,” the affidavit said.
Even as probe agencies are looking into whether loan amounts advanced were siphoned off, Mr. Mallya vehemently denied that he used any of his loans to “amass properties in the names of family members or relatives or friends with any intention to defeat the process of recovery of alleged dues by the banks”.
Mr. Mallya said the recent actions of the Centre only confirmed his apprehensions that he was “needlessly persecuted and wrongly prosecuted”.
He said the Centre was in “unseemly haste” to initiate “coercive proceedings” against him as a consequence of an “unfair and unfortunate media trial” against him. He said Kingfisher Airlines was a genuine commercial and business failure, “nothing more and nothing less”.
In fact, he contended that the running the business of a private airline is full of pitfalls and Kingfisher Airlines crashed due to reasons beyond the control of the management.
Kingfisher versus Air India
Denying he owes money over Rs. 9000 crore in debts, Mr. Mallya contrasted the persecution of his carrier by the banks to the lenient approach they adopted when it came to the case of the State-owned Air India.
“The banks have resorted to blatant discrimination against Kingfisher Airlines. A large number of banks, including public sector banks (the lead bank being State Bank of India) have provided a restructured facility in an amount in excess of Rs. 40,000 crore to Air India,” Mr. Mallya said.
He pointed out that despite Air India's account being one of the largest non-performing assets (bad loan) in the aviation sector, lender to Air India have chosen not to resort to any recovery measures and continue their financial facilities to it.
Demonstrating efforts by his other businesses to revive the airline's health, he said UB Group and its associates had infused large sums of money aggregating to over Rs. 6,100 crore into Kingfisher Airlines, all of which has been lost or is incapable or recovery. He said the liabilities of the airline, including the dues of the banks, amount to Rs. 15,730.86 crore as on March 31, 2013.
He alleged that the banks coerced him to sign a personal guarantee, failing which they had threatened to not re-structure his debts. He reiterated how every single one of his one-time settlement proposals have been rejected by the banks.
He even alleged how the service tax authorities, after seizing six aircrafts and two helicopters of Kingfisher Airlines, then valued at Rs. 497 crore, refused to permit the company to maintain them.