Liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, who is facing investigations by multiple agencies in connection with the default of Rs 9,000 crore worth of loans by his now-defunct airline, Kingfisher, to a clutch of banks, and charges of financial irregularities, has filed a petition with the cyber division of Mumbai Police against Sunday Guardian. The liquor baron took umbrage at the daily, which published an interview, purportedly, based on an email interaction with Mallya.
“I have not given any email or any other interview to anyone including the Sunday Guardian. The email account that has been attributed to me does not belong to me. Every comment, therefore, is fabricated. I have filed a complaint with the cyber police station in Mumbai,” a statement from Mallya’s spokesperson said.
Earlier, Mallya had tweeted denying giving interview to Sunday Guardian. “Shocked to see Sunday Guardian's claim that I exchanged mails with them from my protonmail account. Have never heard of protonmail before (Sic),” Mallya tweeted. “Sunday Guardian's claim that I wrote to them from my so called protonmail account to the reporters protonmail account is a total fake,” Mallya said.
But, MD Nalapat, editorial director of the Sunday Guardian, the daily which published the interview of Mallya on 12 March had told Firstpost, earlier in the day, that the daily stands by its interview and Mallya’s claims that the interview is fake is totally incorrect. Earlier, Mallya had tweeted that the Sunday Guardian interview is fake.
“There is no ambiguity on the genuineness of the interview. It is hundred percent genuine,” said Nalapat said. “It may be so that there was pressure on him (Mallya) from his lawyers and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that certain he said in the interview would be harmful (to his ongoing litigations) and hence he was forced to lie about this,” said Nalapat.
Later, Nalapat also tweeted that he has asked his staff to investigate all the facts concerning the Mallya interview. In the evening statement, Mallya acknowledged this. “The editor of the paper has also publicly admitted on Twitter that he would investigate the matter as this tantamounts to fraud and needs to be seriously investigated,” Mallya said, adding “In all fairness, all TV channels and newspapers who have quoted from the interview should publish a retraction.”
The Sunday Guardian interview quoted Mallya saying that he is not an absconder but is unsure that when he will come back to India. “I’m 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…But I hope that I return one day,” the interview quoted Mallya as saying. This created panic among bankers and put investigators on high alert since Mallya has been summoned by the ED on 18 March and a non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued against him by a Hyderabad Court.
Standing by its report, the newspaper had uploaded the email-trail with Mallya on its website. But, two separate emails sent by Firstpost to Mallya’s email id (firstname.lastname@example.org) failed to reach the intended recipient.
Mallya is in the midst of a controversy for not paying back Rs 9,000 crore loans to some 17 banks, which was lent to his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Banks have so far not managed to make any meaningful recovery of the loan, which turned bad way back in 2012. Subsequently, Mallya was tagged a wilful defaulter by State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. The bank consortium, led by SBI, has approached the Bangalore DRT seeking Mallya’s arrest, first right on the $75 million severance pay Mallya received from Diageo and impounding his passport.