Beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya told a special court in Mumbai on Monday that he is not a “fugitive economic offender” and that he has “persevered” to settle the claims of creditors but his efforts have been scuttled by “certain creditors and government agencies”.
Mallya has claimed that he had made comprehensive settlement offers to the consortium of banks under the State Bank of India, to whom he had defaulted on a loan in 2016.
“Whilst Non-Applicant number 1 (Mallya) was engaged in making bonafide attempts to settle the dues of the consortium of banks by, making the first settlement order and the second settlement order, and instructing the consortium of banks to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations, the Ministry of Finance of the Government of India, on or about 8th May, 2016, appears to have addressed a letter to SBI informing it that the ED and the CBI were investigating KFA (Kingfisher Airlines) and Mallya and in respect of the loans availed and requested the consortium to meet officials of ED and CBI for coordination and effective action,” stated Mallya’s reply to Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) plea seeking to confiscate his properties under the newly promulgated Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
He has further claimed that on May 18, 2016, CBI and ED officials met the consortium members and urged them to file a criminal complaint to enable the ED to attach his Rs 6,000 crore worth of assets. “Despite continuing efforts over the last two to three years, when efforts have been made to repay the public sector banks, instead of taking steps to facilitate the process of repayment of the banks, the ED has at every stage resisted this effort,” Mallya has added.
About his departure from the country on March 2, 2016, Mallya has claimed that he had flown to United Kingdom to raise funds with various European entities to make a “one-time settlement” with the consortium of banks, which had given loans to KFA. He claimed that he had flown to UK on his way to Switzerland as part of the ordinary course of his business activities to attend a meeting with the World Motor Sports Council.
Mallya has further said that on the day he left, he was not subject to any criminal prosecution in India arising out of the loans advanced to KFA, claiming that the warrant in the current offence was only issued subsequently.
“Paying heed to the sudden political dimension the circumstances of KFA’s demise had taken and its portrayal in the Indian media, the non-applicant number 1 for the first time feared that the criminal investigations and proceedings initiated against KFA were being abused by the government of India to pursue a political vendetta against him,” the reply stated, claiming that the criminal process was being used improperly in order to put pressure on him.
He has added that since the investigation into the case of the loan default of the consortium of banks is still underway with the CBI yet to file a chargesheet in the case, the list submitted by the ED of assets it wants to confiscate are not “proceeds of crime”. Mallya has also claimed that the endeavour to attach his properties “deprives creditors such as public sector banks who were lenders to KFA, employees claiming salaries and other authorities including Income Tax and Service Tax”.
Stating that the extradition proceedings before the UK are under process with the judgment on it expected in December, the proceedings before the special court should be stayed till then.
On Monday, the court directed the ED to file its reply by September 28 to Mallya’s plea and also a petition filed by the SBI seeking to intervene in the matter. The court will also decide whether to hear the interveners in the case the same day, who have claimed rights over properties ED has sought to attach.