Fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s claim that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to “settle matters” before he left India has unleashed a controversy with the Congress and Left parties demanding answers from the government, even as the FM promptly denied Mallya’s claim.
The government must explain how and why Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave India, the Congress said and demanded a thorough inquiry, after the businessman’s claimed in London on Wednesday that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving the country.
Given Vijay Mallya’s extremely serious allegations in London today, the PM should immediately order an independent probe into the matter. Arun Jaitley should step down as FInance Minister while this probe is underway.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 12, 2018
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss told reporters in London, outside a UK court where his extradition case was being heard on Wednesday, that he met the minister and offered to settle 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. He is facing court proceedings in London where India’s plea for his extradition is being heard.
However, the Finance Minister rebuffed the fugitive Mallya’s claims and said, “I have seen the statement of Vijay Mallya where he claims to have met me with an offer of settlement. Nothing could be further from the truth. I never gave him (Mallya) an appointment, never at my office, never at my residence. Nor I was ever offered to meet him.”
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury asked the Centre to own up to the fact that it allowed the ‘loot’ to take place. Yechury told ANI, “They (Government) have to own up to the fact that they allowed this loot to happen and the fact that they are allowing this loot to happen, more people are looting.”
After Jaitley refuted Mallya’s claim as “factually false,”, the liquor baron, facing charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore, toned down the seriousness of his comments, saying it was not a “formal meeting” and he only “happened to meet” the finance minister.
Mallya later said “I happened to meet Jaitley in Parliament and told him that I am leaving for London… I did not have any formal meetings scheduled with him,” Mallya said. He also said that he had met Jaitley several times and expressed his willingness to settle the bank loans.
The CPI (M) leader underscored that if the government had correct intentions, it could have unearthed the scam earlier. He asserted that the government can deny the facts, but all those who looted public money by taking loans from banks and absconded, “not one of them happened to leave the country without the knowledge of the government.”
Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the finance minister should have revealed about his meeting with the liquor baron in the Parliament and added that, “Only the Finance Minister can tell why he didn’t tell about it?”
Vijay Mallya met FM @arunjaitley several times before escaping the country to discuss a settlement plan, inspite of this the BJP govt. allowed him to flee with thousands of crores debt. Do we need anymore proof that this govt. is in the pocket of crony capitalists.
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 12, 2018
Another Congress leader Salman Khurshid said that “Mallya was an MP and Jaitley played a major role in his becoming an MP. The fact is if such an offer was made, then the finance minister should’ve told him (Mallya) lets us fix how you’ll take this forward. Fact remains a person who owes it to the country isn’t available in the country.”
The government, the Congress said, was fully complicit in the flight of people such as Mallya and Punjab National Bank fraud accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from the country.
“Everybody was complacent and everybody was aware…whether it was a casual meeting or a structured meeting. We need proper disclosures, full inquiries on this,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that with Mallya’s revelation one thing is clear that the BJP is running “a travel, tour and immigration agency for looters to settle abroad”.
Taking a swipe at the government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan, the Congress leader said the BJP’s sole aim now was ‘Bhagode ka saath, Lootero ka vikas’ (helping absconders and enriching looters).
Meanwhile the UK court which is hearing Mallya’s extradition will deliver its verdict on December 10.