M D Nalapat, Editorial Director of the Sunday Guardian, the daily which published the interview of Indian liquor-baron, Vijay Mallya on 12 March told Firstpost 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 to Firstpost on Tuesday. “It may be so that there was pressure on him (Mallya) from his lawyers and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that certain things he said in the interview would be harmful (to his ongoing litigations) and hence he was forced to lie about this,” said Nalapat.
In the interview, Mallya reemphasized that he is not an absconder, he respects the Indian laws and he left the country on a personal visit. Further, Mallya, said he has the best intentions and explained how loan defaults are part of any businesses. Till here, his statements give enough room for his sympathizers to argue in his favour and blame media for the hysterical frenzy.
But, Mallya also said, when the reporter asked whether he will return to India, that he is unsure 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,” Mallya said. 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.
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.
Mallya stands by his case
But, a spokesperson of Mallya denied Mallya giving interview to Sunday Guardian. “The interview is fake,” said the spokesperson. “Firstly, Dr Mallya doesn’t use or don’t even know of proton email account. Both the sender and receiver, in this case, have used this email id. If the newspaper has approached our legal counsel, they should mention the names of the individuals or the organization,” said the spokesperson. With the Congress-party led opposition stepping up pressure in Parliament on the Mallya case, the Narendra-Modi government is under pressure to speed up action on Mallya. Other investigative agencies, such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and SFIO too have said they will widen the probe.
In an earlier tweet, Mallya had personally denied that he gave 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.
On Monday, P Chidambaram, former finance minister with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government sought to distance from the ongoing investigations into liquor baron Vijay Mallya and banks’ fight to get back about Rs 9,000 crore lent to Mallya’s now-defunct airline Kingfisher Airlines. “I don’t know the facts of Mr Mallya’s case,” Chidambaram said in an exclusive interview to Firstpost.
“..In some cases he (Mallya) is a wilful defaulter, in some cases he has been a victim of economic downturn. Those are not matters where I can judge without full information,” Chidambaram said.