Mallya claims he met fi­nance min­is­ter be­fore leav­ing In­dia

Jait­ley calls the rev­e­la­tion ‘fac­tu­ally false’

Financial Chronicle - - PLAN, POLICY - ADITI KHANNA

EM­BAT­TLED liquor ty­coon Vi­jay Mallya on Wed­nes­day said that he met the fi­nance min­is­ter be­fore leav­ing In­dia, a sen­sa­tional claim de­nied by Arun Jait­ley as “fac­tu­ally false.”

The 62-year-old former King­fisher Air­line boss, who ar­rived here to ap­pear be­fore the West­min­ster Mag­is­trates’ Court in a case re­gard­ing his ex­tra­di­tion to In­dia to face the trial on fraud and money laun­der­ing charges, was asked by re­porters if he was “tipped off” to leave the coun­try.

“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,” he re­sponded, with­out nam­ing the min­is­ter.

Arun Jait­ley, who was the Fi­nance min­is­ter in 2016 when Mallya left In­dia, de­nied the liquor baron’s claim. “Since 2014, I have never given him any ap­point­ment to meet me and the ques­tion of his hav­ing met me does not arise. The state­ment is fac­tu­ally false in as much as it does not re­flect truth,” Jait­ley said in a Face­book post.

Jait­ley said Mallya “mis­used” the priv­i­lege of be­ing a Ra­jya Sabha MP to catch him in cor­ri­dors of Par­lia­ment on one oc­ca­sion while he was walk­ing out of the House to go to his room.

He said Mallya, while walk­ing along­side, “ut­tered a sen­tence that ‘I am mak­ing an of­fer of set­tle­ment’. Hav­ing be­ing fully briefed about his ‘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 he was hold­ing in his hand,” Jait­ley said.

Talk­ing to re­porters Mallya said the me­dia should ques­tion the banks why they are not sup­port­ing him in his ef­forts to re­pay. “I

“The gov­ern­ment was fully com­plicit in the flight of people like Mallya and oth­ers from 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.”

Ab­hishek Singhvi, Congress spokesper­son “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).”

Arvind Ke­jri­wal, Delhi chief min­is­ter “Not only the Fi­nance min­is­ter, the en­tire BJP must come clean on its re­la­tions with Vi­jay Mallya.”

Yash­want Sinha, Former BJP leader

have said be­fore that I am a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball. There is noth­ing that I can do about it. My con­science is clear and (I) put al­most Rs 15,000 crore worth of as­sets on the ta­ble of the Kar­nataka High Court. I am cer­tainly a scape­goat. Both po­lit­i­cal par­ties don’t like me,” he said af­ter the hear­ing. He sar­cas­ti­cally de­scribed the video of Bar­rack 12 at Mum­bai’s Arthur Road Jail, which has been pre­pared for him, as “very im­pres­sive”.

Mallya has been on bail on an ex­tra­di­tion war­rant since his ar­rest in April last year and is fight­ing ex­tra­di­tion to In­dia on charges of fraud and money laun­der­ing amount­ing to around Rs 9,000 crore.

On Wed­nes­day, Mallya’s de­fence team branded the ev­i­dence pre­sented by the In­dian gov­ern­ment in the case as “ut­terly un­founded”. The Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice (CPS), ar­gu­ing on be­half of the In­dian gov­ern­ment, coun­tered this with ar­gu­ments that Mallya had in­tended “from the out­set” never to re­pay the loans he sought for his strug­gling air­line and mis­rep­re­sented its prof­itabil­ity.

At the pre­vi­ous hear­ing in July, Judge Ar­buth­not had asked the In­dian au­thor­i­ties to sub­mit a “step by step video” of Bar­rack 12 of Arthur Road Jail for “the avoid­ance of doubt” over the avail­abil­ity of nat­u­ral light in the cell where the businessman is ex­pected to be de­tained pre-trial, dur­ing trial and in the event he is con­victed by the In­dian courts.

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 nowde­funct King­fisher Air­lines’ al­leged de­fault of over Rs 9,000 crore in loans from a con­sor­tium of In­dian banks. Mallya’s de­fence team has de­posed a se­ries of ex­pert wit­nesses to claim he had no “fraud­u­lent” in­ten­tions and that he is un­likely to get a fair trial in In­dia.

Vi­jay Mallya speaks to the me­dia out­side West­min­ster Mag­is­trates Court on Wed­nes­day

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