Under fire, beleaguered Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya has decided to shoot the messenger.
In a four-hour long interview to the Financial Times—his first since India began making moves to bring him back—the former chairman of India’s leading alcohol company, United Spirits, said banks in India were not willing to negotiate a settlement on his loans due to media pressure.
“It is important to understand the environment in India today. The electronic media is playing a huge role not just in moulding public opinion but in inflaming the government to a very large extent,” he told Financial Times.
“As professional bankers, they would like to settle and move on but, because of my image as portrayed, they are reluctant to be seen as giving me any discount,” he said. “It will attract huge media criticism and inquiries by vigilance agencies in India.”
Mallya—once a high-flier billionaire—left India on March 02 even as a massive loan default probe involving him was underway in the country.
Mallya’s failed venture, Kingfisher Airlines, owes Rs9,000 crore ($1.5 billion) to 17 Indian banks. He has been criticised for “absconding” from the country. Despite his rather active presence on Twitter, Mallya has said nothing about when he plans to return to India.
In recent days, the Indian media has been at the receiving end of Mallya’s wrath at several times.
On March 11, he accused the Indian media and banks of spreading lies about him.
Earlier this week, India’s foreign ministry revoked Mallya’s passport and said the government is committed to bringing him back to face justice. India has also asked the UK to deport Mallya.
Meanwhile, for Mallya, the media is not the only punching bag. He is also enraged with banks who, he says, are asking for an “inflated amount” to settle his debt. “It is grossly unjust to apply compound interest and artificially inflate this figure,” he told the Financial Times.
Mallya’s relationship with the media was not always bitter. In the past, he was friendly with the press, which highlighted his glamour and promoted his image as the King of Good Times. However, the equation changed after hard questions were asked of him.
Perhaps you could teach us how to do our jobs, Mr Mallya?