To say it in one sentence, 60-year-old liquor to airline baron Vijay Mallya, the “King of Good Times” is having such a “hard time” that he had to allegedly flee India, with the banks, regulators and judiciary chasing him for the Rs 9,000 crore he owes to his lenders.
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1. On March 7, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Mumbai filed a money laundering case against liquor baron Vijay Mallya, while the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in Bengaluru ordered British multinational alcoholic beverages company Diageo not to pay him Rs 5.04 billion as severance package to the ex-chairman of United Spirits Ltd till he proves his innocence in a pending case.
2. A State Bank of India (SBI)-led consortium of 17 state-run and private banks filed an application on February 26, alleging that Mallya is yet to repay the debt of about Rs 9,000 crore (plus compound interest) he had taken from the consortium for his Kingfisher Airlines, now defunct.
3. Ignoring a look-out notice by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mallya apparently left the country on March 2 and is presently in London, although the banks requested the Supreme Court to restrain him from “absconding”.
4. However, Mallya was quick to clarify the allegation of him being an absconder and tweeted: “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.”
Mallya also threatened to “expose” the media for targeting him. “Let media bosses not forget help, favours, accommodation that I have provided over several years which are documented. Now lies to get TRP?” he tweeted on March 10.
5. Adding to his woes, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), multi-disciplinary organization under Ministry of Corporate Affairs, has started investigating alleged fund diversion and financial irregularities at Kingfisher Airlines.
6. On March 11, the ED ordered Mallya to appear before it on March 18 in connection with a Rs 900 crore loan-defaulter case with the IDBI Bank.
7. The ED, the same day, asked the consortium of 17 banks to gather all loan-related documents of Mallya.
8. Meanwhile, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Opposition Congress have already started pointing fingers at one another.
9. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the Narendra Modi government and asked: “How can they (Centre) allow Vijay Mallya, who has an unpaid loan of Rs 9,000 crore to our banks, to escape the country?”
10. To that, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley slammed the Congress and said: “There is a lawful procedure to this. Rahul must understand that there is a difference between Quattrocchi escaping and Vijay Mallya escaping.
Pertinently, Italian businessman and the main accused in the Bofors scandal of 1980s, Ottavio Quattrocchi, fled India in July 1993 (during the regime of Congress government) before he could be arrested.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.