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
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.