Naomi Canton talks to fugitive Indian businessman Vijay Mallya whose
extradition case in the UK is to be decided in the high court today. – Times of India
Do you believe the UK will extradite you to India?
I cannot predict nor comment before the extradition judgment tomorrow (today, Monday).
If you lose, then what? Do you want to sit down with the government of India and sort this out?
Extradition is a legal process that is not subject to bilateral negotiation. Whatever the judgment, my legal team will study it in detail and then decide on any future course of action.
If you win then what, is the offer still on the table? Can you summarise what your settlement is at Karnataka high court and what the status of the offer is? Are the banks willing to accept it? Where is the money for your offer of full settlement of your creditors’ dues coming from?
As I have repeatedly said, I have been making settlement offers since 2016. These settlement offers have absolutely nothing to do with my extradition case. I have placed assets worth in excess of Rs 14,000 crore before the Karnataka high court with a request that these be sold under judicial supervision and the court can then decide on payment to all creditors and employees. There is more than enough on the table.
Why have you suddenly now offered to pay the entire principal amount you owe to banks in India?
Nothing sudden about it. My assets are largely in the form of quoted shares which have increased in value over time since 2016. The same banks filed a complaint before the CBI and ED who attached the assets. Effectively the ED and banks are fighting over the same assets. The PMLA tribunal have ruled that they will pass final orders on merit if the Karnataka high court decides to proceed with my settlement offer.
Has this offer not already been turned down by the government?
It is obvious that the government have told the banks not to accept any offer and on the other hand have told the ED to attach and/or confiscate my assets. That is why I approached the Karnataka high court in June this year. I want to finally correct the narrative that I stole public money and ran away. I did not steal and, on the contrary, infused Rs 4,000 crore of my money to save the airline.
Are you awaiting the elections to determine whether you want to return to India? Do you want to go back and settle in India and restart a business in India?
As I said in 2016, I have semiretired and publicly stated my intention to spend more time with my kids all of whom are overseas.
Your lawyer has spoken consistently about the poor track record of the CBI. If exonerated, do you feel your brand and business have been permanently damaged? Are you concerned your legal troubles have dented your brand and business?
The witch-hunt by the government and the manner in which I have become a poster boy and political football has (sic) certainly damaged by reputation beyond repair. Even so, I want to settle with banks, employees and other creditors.
Do you believe that you became a target once you sold off your businesses and therefore politicians and the system had nothing more to get out of you? Did you become the victim of a vendetta?
It’s blindingly obvious. All of them were my friends over the past 30 years when I ran my alcohol businesses.
How have the last couple of years been for you whilst facing attempts to extradite you?
Stressful and at great damage to my reputation.
What is your biggest fear about returning to India?
Politically motivated lack of fair trial and the ability of the politicians to create numerous new allegations which provide for pre-trial detention.
Do you not trust the Indian legal system?
I trust the legal system.
Have you been in touch with banks or politicians since you last left the country? If yes, what have you talked to them about?
Settle, settle, settle.
You have often spoken about feeling targeted. Why is that? Do you feel you are a victim of a political witch-hunt?
Very obvious that because of my image and media presence I became a poster boy for bank default.
Do you think prison conditions in India are fine, and what do you think of the recent decision that the Tihar prison complex poses no bar to Sanjeev Chawla’s extradition?
Are you satisfied with the conditions of Arthur Road jail, and would you be willing to go to prison?
This is for courts to decide in due course.
Might the infighting between top CBI officers in recent weeks help your case? Do you plan to use the CBI mudslinging in your appeal?
My view of the CBI has already been stated.
What has led to your flurry of tweets in the last few days?
My settlement application hearing is coming up. I want people to know that I am keen to settle and that such offers have nothing to do with my extradition case.
Will you pay the outstanding salaries owed to Kingfisher Airlines staff?
Of course. What people do not talk about is that we applied to courts in 2014 and 2015 to withdraw deposits in courts specifically to pay employees and have not got a decision. I am very happy to pay employees first if the high court takes my settlement offer further. Between the ED on one side and the banks on the other, I am stuck in the middle, which only a court of law can resolve.
Do you feel you would have been better off staying in India and negotiating a settlement rather than leaving when the investigations ramped up?
It would have made no difference. But I would not put it past the CBI and ED, to whom the banks complained, to put me in prison and throw away the keys till I accepted all their demands without a fair trial.
Why did you not leave India earlier than you did?
I have lived in the UK and travelled to India and other countries — not the other way around. I have been an NRI since 1988 and have been travelling in and out ever since.
There are bigger loan defaulters than you, but do you think your opulent lifestyle, withholding Kingfisher salaries and PFs, and splashing out on cricketers in the Royal Challengers has spoiled your case?
Maybe, but it only proves my point — that I am a poster boy who is begging to pay back. I ran other very successful large businesses and no Kingfisher Airlines money was used.