Chris­tian Michel: The Man Who Flew Away with .₹ 330 cr in Chop­per Deal

Ital­ian court says Bri­tish biz­man got cash ‘dis­pro­por­tion­ate’ to work from Agusta

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Manu.Pubby@ times­group.com

New Delhi: Here’s the most in­ter­est­ing de­tails, in­clud­ing a to­tal pay­ment of 44 mil­lion eu­ros (around .₹ 330 crore at to­day’s ex­change rates), of the most mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ter in the VVIP chop­per deal, which now has Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress hurl­ing ac­cu­sa­tions at each other.

Chris­tian Michel, a Bri­tish busi­ness­man, was paid mil­lions of dol­lars by Agus­taWest­land.

Mallya left In­dia on March 2. ED had turned down Mallya’s re­quest to be ques­tioned via video con­fer­ence. He has de­nied any wrong­do­ing and said he has been con­tin­u­ously en­gaged in try­ing to reach a set­tle­ment with the banks. “He must have the free­dom to ne­go­ti­ate,” Vaidyanathan said. “Ne­go­ti­a­tions th­ese days can take place through phone calls and video con­fer­enc­ing. The at­tempt does not seem to be to re­cover the money, but to see him in jail.”

Mallya had sub­mit­ted the in­for­ma­tion on over­seas as­sets to the bench of Jus­tices Kurian Joseph and RF Na­ri­man in a sealed cover. Vaidyanathan had re­sisted giv­ing this to the banks on the grounds that Mallya was an NRI for tax pur­poses since 1988. Apart from that, his per­sonal guar­an­tee was worth just .₹ 1,320 crore, he said. The banks filed a re­cov­ery pe­ti­tion in the Ben­galuru-based Debts Re­cov­ery Tri­bunal (DRT) in 2013 that is pend­ing.

The court re­jected the ar­gu­ment that as­sets be­long­ing to Mallya’s ex-wife, wife and chil­dren should not be re­vealed as they were for­eign na­tion­als and not par­ties to the case.

Ro­hatgi said Mallya wasn’t look­ing to set­tle the mat­ter. “The en­tire pur­pose of this ex­er­cise was to see if he was in­ter­ested in any ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment. But he isn’t. He’s not even com­plied with the court’s or­der to sub­mit de­tails of his as­sets in let­ter and spirit. He’s now a fugi­tive from jus­tice,” Ro­hatgi said. “The banks’ money is the peo­ple’s money. We have a right to ex­am­ine it (his as­sets) and go af­ter it,” he said, dis­miss­ing Mallya’s con­di­tional of­fer to pay back about .₹ 6,000 crore to the banks.

‘NO LIQ­UID CASH’

Vaidyanathan said Mallya had no liq­uid cash to de­posit with the court to prove his bona fides. “Where is the money?”

He in­stead urged the court to pass or­ders over­rid­ing ear­lier high court and DRT or­ders re­strain­ing him from sell­ing shares in United Brew­eries and United Spir­its to re­cover some money and de­posit that with the top court. “What hap­pened to the $40 mil­lion he got re­cently from Di­a­geo?” Ro­hatgi asked, re­fer­ring to part of a set­tle­ment he re­ceived for walk­ing away from United Spir­its. Vaidyanathan said the money he had earned abroad was part of his over­seas as­sets and can­not be in­quired into by In­dian au­thor­i­ties. “I am a de­faulter, not a wil­ful de­faulter,” he said. “This is a gen­uine busi­ness fail­ure,” Mallya’s lawyer said of King­fisher. “King­fisher’s to­tal li­a­bil­i­ties stand at .₹ 16,000 crore,” he said, adding that Mallya had per­son­ally lost .₹ 6,100 crore. “That has gone down the drain. I am writ­ing it off. In ad­di­tion, I am of­fer­ing banks an­other .₹ 6,000 crore.”

Ap­pear­ing for UB and United Spir­its, se­nior ad­vo­cate Parag Tri­pathi also re­sisted shar­ing Mallya’s as­set de­tails with the banks. De­tails pro­vided in a civil case can­not be used in crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings by ED, he said. “There has to be a fire­wall around this in­for­ma­tion,” he said, de­mand­ing an as­sur­ance that the as­set de­tails would not be used against Mallya in a crim­i­nal case.

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