Embattled businessman Vijay Mallya told reporters outside London's Westminster Magistrates' Court that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving the country and offered to settle his dues with the Indian banks. The London court was hearing the closing arguments in the extradition case against Mallya on Wednesday, as well as review the video of jail cell prepared for him by the Indian authorities.
"I left (India) because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the Finance Minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle (the dues) with the banks," Mallya said while talking to reporters outside Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Mallya reportedly told the court the same thing during his hearing today. He, however, refused to divulge any further details about his conversation with the Finance Minister. Mallya has tried to resolve matters with the Indian government while staying in the United Kingdom, which was turned down by the latter.
In response to Mallya's statement, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the businessman's claim are "factually false" as it does not reflect the truth. "Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise. However, since he was a Member of Rajya Sabha and he occasionally attended the House, he misused that privilege on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that "I am making an offer of settlement". Having been fully briefed about his earlier "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," Jaitley said in a Facebook post following Mallya's statement.
On being asked why the government and the banks are still on his case despite his settlement offer, Mallya put the ball in the banks' court. "It might interest you to know, banks have filed objections in the court on my settlement application. You should ask them are they not supporting me in my efforts to repay them," Mallya told the reporters.
On being asked how he plans to repay the banks with his assets being frozen, Mallya said that the decision in this regard will have to be taken by the Enforcement Directorate.
"I am a scapegoat. I feel like a scapegoat," Mallya said.
The bench of Emma Arbuthnot is likely to take a final call on handing over Mallya to Indian authorities after reviewing the video on Barrack 12 of Arthur Road jail in Mumbai. This is the prison cell where Mallya will be housed before and during trial, as well as in the event of his conviction by the Indian courts.
Mallya has been out on bail on the extradition warrant since his arrest in UK last April. He has been engaged in a legal battle over his extradition to India on charges of banking fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore. The Enforcement Directorate is vying to declare Mallya a fugitive economic offender and confiscate his assets worth Rs 12,500 crore.
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 Vijay 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 loan default of Rs 9,000 crore.
Edited by Vivek Punj