Congress alleges Govt complicity
The claim of embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya on Wednesday that before leaving India in 2016 he met the Finance Minister and offered to settle the debt issue with the banks has been rubbished by Arun Jaitely, who was Finance Minister at that time.
Jaitely said he never gave the businessman an appointment since 2014 but the fugitive liquor baron misused his position as Rajya Sabha member to accost him in Parliament.
Latching on to the Mallya’s claim, the Congress has alleged that the Modi Government was fully complicit in the flight of people like Mallya and others from the country.
The party has also asked the Centre to explain how and why Mallya was allowed to leave India. Congress president Rahul Gandhi demanded an immediate probe into the “extremely serious” allegations.
Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too have jumped into the controversy. While Sinha has demanded that the entire BJP leadership, not just Jaitley, must come clean on its ties with the liquor tycoon, Kejriwal has termed Mallya’s disclosure “shocking”.
News agency PTI reported from London that the 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airline boss, who arrived to appear before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, told reporters that he had met the Minister and offered to settle the issue with the banks.
“I left India because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. Before leaving I met the Finance Minister and offered to settle (the issue with the banks), Mallya said, without naming the Minister.
Mallya has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in April last year and is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.
In a Facebook blog, Jaitley said Mallya’s statement was “factually false” and “does not reflect truth”.
“Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” he wrote.
“He ( Mallya) 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.
The Finance Minister said he did not even “receive” the papers that he was holding in his hand.
“Besides this one sentence exchange where he misused his privilege as a Rajya Sabha Member, in order to further his commercial interest as a bank debtor, there is no question of my having ever given him an appointment to meet me,” he added.
Joining the issue, the Opposition Congress said the Government must explain how and why Mallya was allowed to leave India. The Government, the party said, was fully complicit in the flight of people like Mallya and others from the country.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the country wants to know what transpired during the meetings between Mallya and Jaitley.
“The Government should now explain how and why he was allowed to leave and what transpired at, you are hearing everything in court,” he added on further questions by the reporters.
Meanwhile, rebel BJP leader Sinha waded into the row by tweeting, “Not only the Finance Minister, the entire BJP must come clean on its relations with Mallya.”
Kejriwal described it as “absolutely shocking” the revelation by fugitive liquor baron Mallya that he met Jaitley before leaving India.
In a series of tweets, Kejriwal asked, “Why did the Finance Minister hide this information till now?”
“PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know (sic),” Kejriwal said.
Mallya, who is facing money laundering charges in multi-crore fraud case in India, also said he had made a “comprehensive settlement” offer before the Karnataka High Court that will help in paying off all his dues.
“As far as I am concerned, I have . I hope the honourable judges will consider it favourably; everybody gets paid off and I guess that’s the primary objective,” said Mallya.