Liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, who flew to London last month as banks pressed him to repay around Rs 9,000 crore owed by his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, has said in an interview to a UK daily that he is in “forced exile”.
In an interview with the Financial Times in central London, Mallya said he wanted to close a painful chapter. “We have always been in dialogue with banks saying: ‘We wish to settle’. But we wish to settle at a reasonable number that we can afford and banks can justify on the basis of settlements done before.”
“By taking my passport or arresting me, they are not getting any money,” he added.
The ministry of external affairs has written to the British high commission seeking Mallya’s return so that “his presence can be secured for investigations against him” under an anti-money laundering law, spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Thursday.
Last week India revoked his passport, after Mallya repeatedly failed to appear before investigators looking into financial irregularities at Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased operating in 2012. A court last week issued an arrest warrant for the 60-year-old, once dubbed the ‘King of Good Times’ for his lavish lifestyle.
“It is important to understand the environment in India today. The electronic media is playing a huge role not just in moulding public opinion but in inflaming the government to a very large extent,” Mallya said in the interview.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said details of Mallya’s overseas assets would be shared with the banks chasing him over Rs 9,000 crore in unpaid loans, despite his protest the information should be kept private.
Mallya said this sum is “inflated”. “It is grossly unjust to apply compound interest and artificially inflate this figure.” He said his offer of a final settlement of Rs 4,000 crore was “way, way in excess of the World Bank average for settlement of bad debts”.
The Enforcement Directorate has accused him of siphoning off money from Kingfisher to buy property abroad -- a claim the company denies.
Mallya denied the charge. “I am absolutely not guilty of any of these preposterous charges of diverting funds from Kingfisher, buying properties or stuff like that.”
“I am perfectly happy with a stable government [with a majority in the lower house]. I will be happy when there is a majority in the upper house too [for the Modi government].”
“As professional bankers, they would like to settle and move on but, because of my image as portrayed, they are reluctant to be seen as giving me any discount,” he said. “It will attract huge media criticism and inquiries by vigilance agencies in India.”
With inputs from agencies