IANS London/New Delhi
Fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya, wanted in India for his alleged role in a multi-crore bank loan fraud case, yesterday sought to drag Finance Minister Arun Jaitley into controversy by claiming that he met him before he left the country in 2016, which the minister called “factually false”.
Mallya, who talked to the media outside a London court where he is facing extradition proceedings, said: “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 told reporters outside a Westminster Magistrate court where he is fighting an extradition case filed by Indian authorities.
Mallya, who left India on March 2, 2016, also claimed that he was disliked by both the major parties in India – the BJP and Congress.
“I am a political football... As far as I am concerned, I have made a comprehensive settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court. I hope the honourable judges will consider it favourably.” Asked if he could settle his dues, Mallya, who headed the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines and the United Breweries, said: “Obviously. That is why a settlement offer has been made.”
Mallya, who faces charges of defrauding banks to the tune of Rs90bn, said he did not file any clemency plea in the Karnataka High Court where he was ready to settle all dues.
“I put almost Rs150bn offer on the table of the Karnataka High Court. I feel like a scapegoat. Both political parties don’t like me,” he said, adding that the banks had rejected his settlement offers.
Shortly later, Jaitley hit back and rejected Mallya’s claim that the fugitive businessman met him before he left India two years ago.
“My attention has been drawn to a statement made to the media by Mallya on having met me with an offer of settlement. The statement is factually false inasmuch as it does not reflect truth,” he said in a Facebook post.
Jaitley said he had never given Mallya any appointment to meet him since 2014 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’,” the minister said.
Jaitley said 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.”
The minister said 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, he never gave Mallya any appointment to meet him.
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