Fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya, wanted in India for his alleged role in a multi-crore bank loan fraud case, on Wednesday sought to drag Finance Minister Arun Jaitley into controversy by claiming that he met him before he left the country in 2016, which the minister called "factually false".
The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss, who has been on bail on an extradition warrant since his arrest in United Kingdom last April, is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs. 9,000 crores. He also said that nobody tipped him off before leaving for London. "Having being fully briefed about his "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'". "Arun Jaitley should step down as FInance Minister while this probe is underway".
Jaitley rubbished Mallya's statement, saying he never gave him an appointment since 2014 but the liquor baron misused his position as Rajya Sabha MP to accost him in Parliament. Afterwards, Mallya clarified he didn't have any formal meeting with Jaitley but had happened to meet Mr. Jaitley in Parliament, telling him about his departure to London.
Mallya's statement has dealt a massive blow to the BJP-led NDA government that is now battling multiple challenges, including the depreciation of the rupee and rising fuel prices.
Congress and other opposition parties latched onto Mallya's statement to question the government about the circumstances in which the defaulter businessman fled the country. It was followed by a related enforcement order in June, granting permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter Mallya's properties in Hertfordshire, near London, where he has been based since he left India in March 2016. "That is why a settlement offer has been made".
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Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately order an independent probe into Vijay Mallya's "extremely serious allegations" and Arun Jaitley should step down while the investigation will be carried out.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, too, described as "absolutely shocking" the revelation by Vijay Mallya and asked, "Why did the finance minister hide this information till now?" "You should ask them are they not supporting me in my efforts to repay them", Mallya told the reporters.
Vijay Mallya will appear before a London court on Wednesday for a hearing in his extradition case, during which the judge is expected to review a video of the Mumbai jail cell prepared by the Indian authorities for the embattled liquor tycoon. What transpired in these meetings?
"I did not even receive the papers that he was holding in his hand". The Congress also said on its official Twitter handle that Mallya met Jaitley "several times" before escaping the country to discuss a settlement plan. "People want to know (sic)", Kejriwal said.