Vijay Mallya appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London on Wednesday, as India’s efforts to extradite him continue.
During the hearing Judge Emma Arbuthnot reviewed video footage provided by Indian authorities at her request, following defence demands for an inspection of Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai where Mr. Mallya would be housed, before and after any court proceedings if extradited and sentenced.
Outside the court, Mr. Mallya dropped a bombshell claiming that he met the Finance Minister and offered to settle with the banks. Mr. Jaitley has since rubbished Mr. Mallya’s statement, saying he never gave Mr. Mallya an appointment since 2014 but the liquor baron misused his position as Rajya Sabha MP to accost him in Parliament. Later. Mr. Mallya clarified that the meeting was nor a formal one.
The judge has fixed December 10 as the date for her verdict in the case. “There is an awful lot to go over The most important point is the prima facie case,” the judge said, indicating that other issues relating to prison conditions would be secondary.
‘I met Mr. Jaitley and told him I was going to London’
Mr. Mallya responds after Mr. Jaitley's statement: “I am afraid this is a controversy created by my friends in media. I was standing during the lunch break and I happen to answer a question on the circumstances under which I flew out. I said I happened to meet Mr. Jaitley in Parliament and told him that I am leaving for London. I did not have any formal meeting scheduled with him.”
Mr. Mallya says he met Mr. Jaitley “often enough in the Parliament, in the House, in the Central Hall”.
“It was a totally innocent statement made by me that I told Jaitley that I was going to London,” Mr. Mallya says at the end of his extradition case hearing at the court, when the judge fixed December 10 as the date for her verdict in the case.
Absolutely shocking, says Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal describes Mr. Mallya revelation as “absolutely shocking”.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Kejriwal asks, “Why did the finance minister hide this information till now? Absolutely shocking.
“PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know (sic).”
Entire BJP must come clean: Yashwant Sinha
Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha says that the entire BJP leadership, not just Mr. Jaitley, must come clean on its ties with Mr. Mallya.
“Not only the Finance Minister, the entire BJP must come clean on its relations with Vijay Mallya,” Mr. Sinha tweets. A former Union Finance Minister. Mr. Sinha has been critical of Mr. Jaitley and his handling of the Ministry.
Had one sentence exchange where (Mr. Mallya) misused his privilege as a RS Member: Jaitley
Statement from Mr. Jaitley:
“My attention has been drawn to a statement made to the media by Vijay Mallaya on having met me with an offer of settlement.
“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.”
Congress demands explanation from govt
Reacting to Mr. Mallya’s revelation in London, the Congress has demanded that the government must explain how Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave India. “Govt must reveal details of Mallya’s meetings with FM Jaitley,” the party says.
‘I met Finance Minister before I left’
“I have said before that I am a political football. There is nothing that I can do about it. My conscience is clear and put almost Rs. 15,000 crore worth of assets on the table of the Karnataka High Court. I am certainly a scapegoat. I feel like a scapegoat. Both political parties don’t like me,” Mr. Mallya tells the media outside London's Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Asked if he was “tipped off” to leave the country, Mr. Mallya says, “I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the Finance Minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth.”
“I obviously don’t agree with anything the prosecution is alleging. We poured over Rs. 4,000 crore into Kingfisher Airlines to keep it flying. The allegation seems to be the other way around. Let the court decide,” he adds.
Arun Jaitley was the Finance Minister in 2016 when Mr. Mallya left India.
Wrapping up her final oral submission that lasted two hours, Mr. Mallya's barrister Clare Montgomery turned to the jail conditions at Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, arguing a "hasty clean up job" was done to the cell. "This is a case for a prison visit."
Mallya's lawyer challenges four government contentions on IDBI loan
Clare Montgomery, Mr. Mallya's barrister, kicks off the hearing by focusing on IDBI loan at the heart of the case.
She challenges four government contentions: that false information was provided to obtain the loan; there was false information on the value of securities offered to obtain the loan; the way the loan was used was contrary to the terms of the loan; and that the loan had been taken out with the expectation it wouldn’t be repaid.
"Far from being taken out with a view to default, it was ‘perfectly obvious’ the loan was taken out with view of successful running of the airline."
‘It’s a pretty bizarre case the government of India is advancing. Can a jury safely exclude this was an ordinary commercial loan that fails for ordinary commercial reasons?"
Ms. Montgomery goes in-depth into challenging the government's suggestion that there was a ‘stark disjoint’ between what Mr. Mallya and colleagues and the bank knew on Kingfisher's financial health.
The suggestion that there was ‘secret pocket of knowledge’ within Kingfisher that was not disclosed to IDBI is ‘utterly unfounded’, she says.
Judge reviews video of prison cell
The judge says she’s watched the video from India on lighting conditions inside Arthur Road Jail three times. Clare Montgomery, Mr. Mallya's barrister, suggested that there was "some support" for the view that the cell at barrack 12 had been "painted to achieve the requisite brightness in the room."
'I’ve made a comprehensive settlement offer before the Karnataka HC'
Vijay Mallya arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London ahead of his hearing in which video from India on lighting conditions inside Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail are also expected to be discussed.
Outside the court he told journalists that his primary objective was to ensure that “everybody gets paid off". "As far as I’m concerned I’ve made a comprehensive settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court. I hope the honourable judges will consider it favourably."
Asked if he could afford to, he replied “obviously that is why a settlement offer has been made.”
Earlier, Mr. Mallya’s defence team had insisted that the Indian government’s assurances couldn’t be relied upon, but the judge rejected the call for an inspection and asked for a video to be taken at midday to allay concerns about lighting. Concerns around prison conditions have formed a key plank of Mr. Mallya’s defence against the efforts to extradite him.
During an extensive hearing in December Alan Mitchell, a Scottish prison expert and elected member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, questioned prison conditions facing Mr. Mallya, including around the adequacy of medical care, facilities, lighting and the opportunity for experts such as himself to conduct visits.
India has since provided further assurances on these issues. The hearing on the Indian government’s efforts to extradite Mallya to face charges of fraud and money laundering kicked off in December, but has been beset by delays and requests for further clarification and assurances.
A separate case has been going through a London commercial court, brought by a consortium of 13 public sector banks seeking to recover £1.145 billion worth of assets. In July, the Court of Appeal rejected Mallya’s attempt to appeal the commercial court’s decision on the Karnataka judgment and the WFO.