Vijay Mallya terms charges politically motivated

Fugitive businessman rues ‘poster boy of defaulters’ tag.

June 26, 2018 03:05 pm | Updated 10:35 pm IST - New Delhi

 Vijay Mallya. File

Vijay Mallya. File

Two years after arriving in Britain and now fighting India’s extradition case in the courts here, businessman Vijay Mallya on Tuesday broke his silence, slamming the “politically motivated” case and “blatantly false” allegations made against him. In a statement, Mr. Mallya highlighted his attempt, via the Karnataka High Court, to sell ₹13,900 crore of assets to repay creditors, including the banks at the heart of the case against him.

Any attempt to block this effort would highlight the “agenda” being pursued against him beyond the recovery of dues to the banks, he said.

He also made public letters he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in April 2016, expressing his pain at becoming the “poster boy of all bank defa- ults, accused of looting public money and fleeing the nation,” and calling for an ombudsman or a committee to examine the situation so justice could “prevail.”

“I am tired of this relentless pursuit of me by the government…all my efforts are either ignored or misunderstood,” he wrote in his statement.

So far Mr. Mallya’s approach had been to maintain silence on the charges he is facing. While attending every hearing of the extradition case against him, even those he was not required to attend, and conversing with the media present there, he only pointed journalists towards the arguments being made by his barristers in the court room.

The extradition hearing began in December and is set to continue on July 31. In a separate case, Mr. Mallya has applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal a lower court’s ruling upholding the World Freezing Order and the registration of the Indian Debt Recovery Tribunal’s ruling against him brought by 13 public sector banks to whom he was recently required to pay £200,000 towards legal expenses.

In his statement, Mr. Mallya goes over much of the ground that had been presented by his legal representatives fighting the extradition efforts, challenging the government’s narrative of a conspiracy hatched with senior executives at IDBI, and subsequent efforts made to squirrel away the funds.

Approval process

Mr. Mallya insisted the approval process for the loans had been “appropriate” while their restructuring under a master debt cast agreement in 2010 had happened with the RBI’s permission.

The failure of Kingfisher Airlines had been due to circumstances beyond its control, and he had attempted to hold settlement discussions with the bank’s top management.

“I respectfully submit that my conduct does not amount to ‘wilful default’,” he said, also expressing his sympathies with employees who had not been paid.

“The non-payment of salaries did not go unnoticed by me,” he said, pointing to a 2014 application to the Supreme Court to pay part of the salaries of KFA employees.

He also slammed the criminal conspiracy charges and the “overreach” of the ED’s “vast powers” under the 2002 Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

It “behoves the fundamental question of whether the government wants me to repay the public sector banks or not,” he wrote.

The suggestion of a political motivation in the case against Mr. Mallya has been a running theme through his defence against the extradition effort.

“The whole case has been politicised by the BJP, Congress, and Shiv Sena…they all treat it as an opportunity to make political capital on the assumption there was fraud,” said his barrister Clare Montgomery in one of the hearings last year, suggesting it was a question of weighing up the competing narratives of fraud versus business failure. In April, the attempt by Mr. Mallya’s defence team to rule out much of the evidence in the case against him suffered a setback as the judge ruled most of the evidence produced thus far would be admissible, save for emails covered by legal professional privilege.

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