Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has rubbished as false the statement of Vijay Mallya wherein he claimed that he had "met the Finance Minister" before he left India. Taking to his Facebook page, Arun Jaitley has written the following post:
My attention has been drawn to a statement made to the media by Vijay Mallaya on having met me with an offer of settlement.
The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth. Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me 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”. 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. 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, there is no question of my having ever given him an appointment to meet me.
The Finance Minister's statement comes within an hour of Mallya's statement to reporters during recess in his extradition hearing at the Westminster Magistrates' court. Having stepped out of the court, Mallya was asked a number of questions, on the case and on other topics.
At one point, shortly before he was to go back in, he was asked about his final March 2016 departure from India, and whether he had been tipped-off about 'someone going after him', to which he said:
"I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the Finance Minister before I left -- repeated my offer to settle with banks. That's the truth."
He was then asked to elaborate on the statement, to which Mallya refused to divulge details, saying, "Why should I be telling you?"
Earlier, during the hearing, Mallya's counsel had presented their arguments and offered that Kingfisher Airlines was no more than "simple and honest commercial failure" and wouldn't count as criminal in the UK. A video of the premises of Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where Mallya is to be lodged if extradited to India, had also been submitted to the court, as asked, and when Mallya was asked about it during the recess, he said it was "very impressive.
Both Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress had jumped at Mallya's statement regarding meeting Jaitley, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeting:
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi also extended the attack to include PNB bank scam-accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, by saying that all three, including Mallya, had met Jaitley.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also took on the government, saying: 'It came out of the horse itself. Without the government knowing this can never happen. Mallya's answer cleared our doubts. Be it Nirav Modi or Lalit Modi or Mehul Choksi or Mallya, everyone took our money and fled the country.'
Vijay Mallya owes a consortium of banks almost Rs 10,000 crore in relation to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, which had an acrimonious end to its short existence, being unable to pay salaries to its thousands of employees, or parking fees to airports, even as its promoter, i.e. Mallya, continued to enjoy his self-styled 'King of good times' lifestyle, on occasion, even selling parts of his liquor empire but not using the proceeds to pay back his considerable debts. He was declared a "proclaimed offender" by a PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court in June 2016 and arrested by the UK Metropolitan Police's extradition unit in April 2017, and then again in October 2017. He continues to be out on bail.