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Fugitive Indian tycoon Mallya says he met FM before he left country, Jaitley denies claim

Jaitley said he had never given Mallya any appointment to meet him since 2014

Image Credit: AP
F1 Force India team boss Vijay Mallya arrives to attend a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday rejected Vijay Mallya's claim that the fugitive businessman met him before he left India two years ago.

"My attention has been drawn to a statement made to the media by Vijay Mallya on having met me with an offer of settlement. The statement is factually false inasmuch as it does not reflect truth," he said in a Facebook post shortly after the fugitive businessman made the claim outside a London court where he is facing extradition trial.

Jaitley said he had never given Mallya any appointment to meet him since 2014 and "the question of his having met me does not arise".

"However, since he was a Member of Rajya Sabha and he occasionally attended the House, he misused that privilege on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room.

"He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that 'I am making an offer of settlement'," the Minister said.

Jaitley said 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'. I did not even receive the papers that he was holding in his hand."

The Minister said besides this one-sentence exchange where he misused his privilege as a Rajya Sabha Member in order to further his commercial interest as a bank debtor, he never gave Mallya any appointment to meet him.

I met FM before I left India: Mallya

However Mallya claimed he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving India in 2016.

"I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the Finance Minister before I left... repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth," he told reporters outside a Westminster Magistrate court where he is fighting an extradition case filed by Indian authorities.

Mallya, who left India on March 2, 2016, also claimed that he was disliked by both the major parties in India -- the BJP and Congress.

"I am a political football... As far as I am concerned, I have made a comprehensive settlement offer before the Karnataka High Court. I hope the honourable judges will consider it favourably."

Asked if he could settle his dues, Mallya, who headed the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines and the United Breweries, said: "Obviously. That is why a settlement offer has been made."

Mallya, who faces charges of defrauding banks to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore, said he did not file any clemency plea in the Karnataka High Court where he was ready to settle all dues.

"I put almost Rs 15,000 crore offer on the table of the Karnataka High Court. I feel like a scapegoat. Both political parties don't like me," he said, adding that the banks had rejected his settlement offers.

'Explain how and why Mallya was allowed to leave India'

The government must explain how and why Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave India, the Congress said Wednesday after the liquor baron claimed in London that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before leaving the country.

The government, the party said, was fully complicit in the flight of people like Mallya and others from the country.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the country wants to know what transpired during the meetings between Mallya and Jaitley.

 "The government should now explain how and why he was allowed to leave and what transpired at those meetings. The nation wants to know," he said.

 The 62-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss told reporters in London that he met the minister and offered to settle with the banks.

"I left India because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. Before leaving I met the finance minister and offered to settle (the issue with the banks), Mallya said, without naming the minister.

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