New Delhi :
Beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya, who has been summoned by the ED to appear before it on March 18, has ruled out his return to India for now, saying the time is not “right”.
Mallya said this as his troubles mounted with a Hyderabad court issuing a non-bailable warrant(NBW) against the liquor baron after he failed to appear before it in a cheque dishonour case.
The court order in the case of alleged dishonour of a Rs 50 lakh cheque to GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd came even as Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said a probe will be launched to check whether there were any anomalies in the Provident Fund(PF) contributions made by Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines for its employees when it was functioning.
Mallya, 60, is facing multiple proceedings for allegedly defaulting on loans of over Rs 9,000 crore from various banks. His departure from India on March 2 unhindered in the middle of the probes also triggered a political row.
Taking forward its money laundering probe in the alleged default in payment of Rs 900 crore dues to IDBI bank by the now defunct Kingfisher airlines, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last Friday issued summons to Mallya for appearance in Mumbai on March 18.
Asked when he planned to return to India, Mallya told ‘The Sunday Guardian’ in an e-mail interview, “I am an Indian to the core. Of course I want to return. But I am not sure I’ll get a fair chance to present my side. I’ve already been branded as criminal. I do not feel the time is right.”
Mallya did not respond to an e-mail by PTI on his future plans. He, however, tweeted that he was being “hunted down” by the media in the United Kingdom.
“I am being hunted down by media in UK. Sadly they did not look in the obvious place. I will not speak to media so don’t waste your efforts,” he said.
The liquor baron while stating that the time is not right for his return said he left India due to a “personal visit with a friend” and appeared to shift the blame of the massive loan default to the banks.
“There was a lookout notice issued against me last year. But I didn't ‘escape’. Why am I being portrayed as a criminal now? Loan defaults are a business matter. When the banks give out loans, they know the risk involved. They decide, we don't. Our own business was flourishing, but plummeted suddenly.
Don't make me the villain. I have the best intentions. I'm quiet because I fear my words will be twisted like of others,” he said.
“I've not done anything wrong. I am being victimised...I'm one of the most open people. I'm forced to go into hiding and that makes me sick.”
The 14th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) in Hyderabad issued the NBWs on March 10 against the company (airline), Mallya and another senior official of the carrier and posted the matter to April 13.
Mallya’s counsel H Sudhakar Rao said he will move the high court seeking quashing of the non-bailable warrant. GMR counsel G Ashok Reddy said today, “He (Mallya) and others were supposed to appear before the court on March 10. They did not appear...hence, court issued NBW order which has to be executed by April 13.”
Amid the row involving Mallya, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said “full force of the law” is being applied to bring all wilful loan defaulters to justice. He, however, did not name anyone.