Vijay Mallya wants to return to India but fears the time isn’t right as his words may be twisted in spite of his “best intensions” following his Rs 9,000 crore loan default, the liquor baron told .
In an email interview with the newspaper Sunday Guardian, the tycoon said he left India due to a “personal visit with a friend” and appeared to shift the blame of the massive loan default to the banks.
“There was a lookout notice issued against me last year. But I didn’t “escape”. Why am I being portrayed as a criminal now?” he said.
The tycoon -- who triggered outrage for leaving India in spite of a CBI probe and Supreme Court proceedings against his alleged financial misconduct – is known for his flashy lifestyle and often billed himself as “The King of Good Times”.
But his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines defaulted on a Rs 900 crore loan, allegedly in collusion with IDBI bank employees, triggering a CBI probe and a case by the Enforcement Directorate.
“Loan defaults are a business matter. When the banks give out loans, they know the risk involved. They decide, we don’t. Our own business was flourishing, but plummeted suddenly,” he said.
“Don’t make me the villain. I have the best intentions. I’m quiet because I fear my words will be twisted like of others.”
Last week, a consortium of 17 banks approached the Supreme Court SC to bar Mallya from leaving India, worried about the fate of their loans worth thousands of crores.
The court issued a notice to Mallya, seeking his personal appearance in the SC and impounding his passport, but by then, he had left India.
“I am an Indian to the core. Of course I want to return. But I’m not sure I’ll get a fair chance to present my side. I’ve already been branded as criminal. I do not feel the time is right. I feel passions are high,” he told Sunday Guardian.
“People need to think rationally. They need to understand that business, whether large or small, has risks involved. But I hope that I return one day. India has given me everything. It made me Vijay Mallya.”
A debt-recovery tribunal order has barred him from touching the Rs 515 crore he received from liquor giant Diageo as settlement but the British company has said it already paid Mallya Rs 269 crore.
Banks owed money by Kingfisher Airlines have demanded “first right” to the Diageo cash, arguing that they were left with unpaid debts worth Rs 9,000 crore when the company collapsed more than three years ago.
But a combative Mallya didn’t back down, hitting out at the media and saying he didn’t do anything wrong.
“Most of the big media houses are running a whole lot of lies about me. Speculations rule the papers. TV channels claim to have information about me from their sources. It’s a big agenda that some people are pushing against me. I am being victimized,” he said.
“And if people are doubting the integrity of bank employees, then why point the finger at me?”
The development comes at a time when India’s banking sector, dominated by about two-dozen state-run lenders, has been bruised by its highest bad-loan ratio in years as lagging economic growth hit companies’ abilities to service debt.