State Bank of India, which leads a consortium of 17 lenders of Kingfisher Airlines, refuted the allegation that the banks were late in taking action against the airline and its promoter Vijay Mallya.
The statement comes amidst the uproar in Parliament on Thursday over Mallya leaving the country. Kingfisher owes the banks over Rs 9,000 crore.
There were media reports that SBI, advised by a Delhi-based law firm to move the Supreme Court, high courts or debt recovery tribunals to stop Mallya from going abroad towards the end of last month, didn’t act promptly.
“As the leader of the consortium, we strongly deny media reports,” SBI said in a statement.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that Mallya left the country on March 2. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has also said banks should have acted earlier to stop Mallya from going abroad, even as he warned of “appropriate action” against those responsible for any “inaction” in recovery of dues.
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office sources told PTI that at their last meeting on February 29 here, Mallya had promised to meet them again on March 4. Last week, CBI director Anil Sinha had blasted the lenders for not coming forward with a complaint in the Kingfisher Airlines “fraud”. This delay helped the company “divert funds and destroy evidence”, he had said.
“Despite our repeated requests, the banks did not file a complaint with the CBI. We had to register the case on our own,” Sinha said.
SBI claimed it had moved very promptly. Mallya owes more than Rs 1,600 crore to it. The lender said the day Diageo announced a 75 million dollar sweetheart deal for Mallya to leave United Spirits as chairman on February 26, it moved the DRT Bengaluru for advancement of the matter listed for hearing on March 8.
The DRT advanced the matter to February 29, as February 27 and February 28 were Saturday and Sunday (holidays). “As senior advocates had advised that it will not be possible to directly approach the Supreme Court for seeking relief in respect of the deal, SBI additionally filed four applications in DRT Bengaluru seeking various reliefs,” the bank’s statement said.