Indian businessman Vijay Mallya blames the heightened political climate for his inability to reach a consensus with the banks in settling his debt.
Former Kingfisher Airline head, gave his first exclusive interview to Financial Times since the Indian Government's decision to initiate extradition process against him. With the Government revoking Mallya's passport and asking the UK authorities to deport him back to India, he claims in the interview that he is "living in forced exile". Stating his displeasure, Mallya said that the way his passport was revoked was unprecedented and that it was done with utmost haste.
Coming soon: exclusive interview with fugitive Indian billionaire VJ Mallya who tells his side of the story pic.twitter.com/m4pydv3yul— Lionel Barber (@lionelbarber) April 28, 2016
The Government is still mulling over the extradition option, but no final decision has been made yet. Mallya is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for a Rs 900 crore loan issued to Kingfisher Airlines in 2009.
The four hour interview was conducted at his sprawling residence outside Welwyn Garden City, UK. Mallya confirms firmly that he has no plans to return to India as a 'witch hunt' has been launched against him.
Expressing his keenness on settling the issue, he said, “We have always been in dialogue with banks saying: ‘We wish to settle'." But he goes on to add that the Indian Government will not get any money if they are adamant on arresting him.
Mallya blames the media for playing a "huge role not just in moulding public opinion but in inflaming the government to a very large extent.” He also added that because of the media frenzy and public ire hyped against him, the bank are now afraid of compromising on the loan amount.
Let media bosses not forget help, favours,accommodation that I have provided over several years which are documented. Now lies to gain TRP ?— Vijay Mallya (@TheVijayMallya) March 10, 2016
According to Indian authorities, Kingfisher's debts are estimated to be about 900 million pounds. But Mallya said that the sum is an "inflated amount". He goes on to say, "The banks need to consider that there are other creditors that need to be paid off and satisfied. I can not possibly be giving the banks the preference because of the extra-ordinary pressure being put by the various government agencies."
He also denies any wrong doing in the Rs 900 crore loan for which he is being investigated by ED. “I am absolutely not guilty of any of these preposterous charges of diverting funds from Kingfisher, buying properties or stuff like that," he said.
Still a Rajya Sabha member, Mallya says that he doesn't think Prime Minister Narendra Modi is behind the decision to revoke his passport and his arrest. “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].”
Meanwhile, Mallya has been active on Twitter, not with his own tweets, but retweeting from various groups of his company. The 'King of Good Times' had also taken to Twitter in the past to clarify his stance.
As an Indian MP I fully respect and will comply with the law of the land. Our judicial system is sound and respected. But no trial by media.— Vijay Mallya (@TheVijayMallya) March 10, 2016
Once a media witch hunt starts it escalates into a raging fire where truth and facts are burnt to ashes.— Vijay Mallya (@TheVijayMallya) March 11, 2016
I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish.— Vijay Mallya (@TheVijayMallya) March 10, 2016
Mallya also said that he has worked hard in his life and now looks forward to "settle the debt with the banks and live a peaceful life."