New Delhi: Absconding tycoon Vijay Mallya’s claim that he had a “meeting” with the finance minister before leaving India has created a political storm, with the opposition parties hitting out at the government and the minister rubbishing the claims. Minutes later, Vijay Mallya backtracked, blaming the media for misrepresenting facts and essentially confirming the minister’s version of events.
In London for the hearing of his extradition case, Mr Mallya — who is wanted on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs. 9,000 crore — said he met Mr Jaitley before leaving India.
“I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva, I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks… that’s the truth,” he told reporters outside the London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court. He said he had also told the minister that he was leaving for London.
In India, it triggered an opposition charge, with the parties alleging that it proved corrupt businessmen were fleeing the country with the collusion of the government and demanding an explanation from the government.
In a Facebook post, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said Mr Mallya’s “statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth”.
“Since 2014, I have never given him (Vijay Mallya) any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” the post read.
The minister went on to describe the occasion where Mr Mallya met him in the Parliament corridor and “misused his privilege as a Rajya Sabha Member”.
The tycoon, Mr Jaitley said, had said, “I am making an offer of settlement”. “Having been fully briefed about his earlier “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,” Mr Jaitley said in the post.
Vijay Mallya later claimed the media had misrepresented facts. Asked about Mr Jaitley’s response to his offer of settlement, he said, “There was no scheduled meet. I said I happened to meet the finance minister.” He, however, added that he had told the minister that he was leaving for London.
The Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said, “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 the Finance Minister while this probe is underway”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a tweet said, “PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know.”
“Entire Modi government is hand in glove with scamsters & absconders. They hatched a plot to loot hundreds of thousands of Crores. PM & FM must respond on this,” tweeted Bihar leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Last month, during his visit to the UK, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the Narendra Modi government is going easy on some businessmen like Vijay Mallya. “Before Mallya left India, he met senior BJP leaders. That is documented. I won’t name them,” Rahul Gandhi had told reporters in London.