London: Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya said Wednesday that he met the finance minister before leaving India, a claim denied by Arun Jaitley as “factually false.”
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airline boss, who arrived here to appear before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in a case regarding his extradition to India to face the trial on fraud and money laundering charges, was asked by reporters if he was “tipped off” to leave the country.
“I left because 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 responded, without naming the minister.
Arun Jaitley, who was the Finance Minister in 2016 when Mallya left India, denied the liquor baron’s claim.
“Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” Finance Minister Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
“The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth,” he asserted.
Jaitley said Mallya “misused” the privilege of being a Rajya Sabha MP to catch him in corridors of Parliament on one occasion while he was walking out of the House to go to his room.
He said Mallya, while walking alongside, “uttered a sentence that ‘I am making an offer of settlement’. Having being fully briefed about his ‘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 he was holding in his hand,” Jaitley said.
In London, talking to reporters Mallya said the media should question the banks why they are not supporting him in his efforts to repay.
“I have said before that I am a political football. There is nothing that I can do about it. My conscience is clear and (I) put almost Rs 15,000 crore worth of assets on the table of the Karnataka High Court,” he said.
“I am certainly a scapegoat, I feel like a scapegoat. Both political parties don’t like me,” he said, while having a cigarette during the lunch break during the hearing for his ongoing extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
He sarcastically described the video of Barrack 12 at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, which has been prepared for him, as “very impressive”.
“I have no comment, you are hearing everything in court,” he added on further questions by the reporters.
Mallya has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year and is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores.
At the previous hearing in July, Judge Arbuthnot had asked the Indian authorities to submit a “step by step video” of Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail for “the avoidance of doubt” over the availability of natural light in the cell where the businessman is expected to be detained pre-trial, during trial and in the event he is convicted by the Indian courts.
The extradition trial, which opened at the London court on December 4 last year, is aimed at laying out a prima facie case of fraud against Mallya. It also seeks to prove there are no “bars to extradition” and that the tycoon is assured a fair trial in India over his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of over Rs 9,000 crores in loans from a consortium of Indian banks.
Mallya’s defence team has deposed a series of expert witnesses to claim he had no “fraudulent” intentions and that he is unlikely to get a fair trial in India.