Embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Tuesday issued a press statement refuting the allegations levelled against him by Indian banks and investigative agencies. He also attached a letter written to the Prime Minister in 2016, apart from other documents.
Mallya, who had escaped to the UK and is resisting deportation to India, claimed that the charge sheets filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have “untenable and blatantly false allegations”.
“I have become the ‘poster boy’ of bank defaults and a lightening rod for public anger,” said Mallya in the press statement.
“I am tired of the relentless pursuit of me by the Indian government and its criminal agencies. All my efforts are either ignored or misunderstood,” he added.
Mallya’s 15 April 2016 letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “he is appealing to good sense of justice so that he is treated in a fair manner”.
Mallya is facing money laundering charges in a ₹9,000 crore loan default case for his now grounded Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.
The press statement comes days after the ED filed a request before a special court to label Mallya as a ‘fugitive’, which would enable the investigating agency to confiscate his assets before trial.
On 18 June, the ED had also filed a second charge sheet, alleging laundering, siphoning of funds and no intention to repay the loan of ₹6,900 crore, including interests. Addressing these allegations, the business tycoon said he made enough attempts to arrive at a settlement offer for the banks.
“The siphoning of funds allegation is adequately dealt with the fact that UB Group actually infused approximately ₹4,000 crore into Kingfisher Airlines.”
The ‘fugitive’ tag is yet another witch hunt and to make me a poster boy, he said.
Mallya also contested the ₹9,600 crore worth of property attachment by ED claiming that it does not have any legal basis. ED has even attached properties created in 1902, he said.
“How can assets created before Kingfisher existed be considered as proceeds of crime?” he said. Rebutting the CBI’s charges of criminal conspiracy and dishonest conduct, he said that the banks made “their own lending decisions as per their own internal rules and procedures”.
He also said that his conduct cannot amount to wilful default as he made settlement offers to banks on 29 March 2016 and 6 April 2016 of ₹4,000 crore and ₹4,400 crore, respectively, during proceedings at the Supreme Court.
Mallya was labelled as wilful defaulter by the United Bank of India in September 2014 and by State Bank of India in November 2015.
The offers needed to be viewed in context of the previous one-time settlement between banks and borrowers and significant haircuts under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), said Mallya.
Addressing the dues of erstwhile Kingfisher employees, he requested the Karnataka High Court to release the interest on ₹1,280 crore deposit for part payment to the employees.
According to him, the effort is towards securing his presence in India on ‘false charges’ rather than examining the evidence for criminal charges and repaying the banks.
The Indian government has filed an extradition request for Mallya in London on the basis of the charge sheets filed by the CBI and the ED.
Separately, in an attempt to put an end to the various legal battles against it “without any further contest”, Mallya owned United Brewries (Holding) Ltd submitted a Rs13,960.31 crore settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court on 22 June.
The offer submitted to the High Court proposes to liquidate and monetise the assets belonging to Mallya and the UB Group, which have been attached and/or seized under orders of various courts, tribunals and authorities.
After the UB group failed to pay back its debts to a consortium of banks, including the State Bank of India, Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, had moved the Karnataka High Court seeking the winding-up of UB (Holding) Ltd in 2013.
Source: Livemint, June 26, 2018