Vijay Mallya says the Indian government is plotting to make him a poster boy of financial crime

Poor me.
Poor me.
Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash
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Vijay Mallya still doesn’t think he has done anything wrong.

On Sept. 29, the beleaguered business tycoon said the Indian government is trying to make him a “poster boy of bad loans and financial crime” and blamed the country’s taxation policies and high fuel prices for the failure of his venture, Kingfisher Airlines, which owes over Rs9,000 crore to 17 banks in India. In November 2015, the country’s largest lender, the State Bank of India, declared Mallya a wilful defaulter.

“As its part of concerted efforts (sic) to make a poster boy of bad loans and financial crime, the government continues to attach properties and threaten other forms of action, all of which, I assure you, my dear friends, will be contested in the courts of law,” Mallya said in a pre-recorded video message at the 100th annual general meeting of United Breweries Holding (UBH).

The former liquor baron has been in London since March 02, avoiding summons by Indian courts, and has been criticised for “absconding.”

Mallya is the chairman of UBH whose operations primarily include holding strategic investments and real estate. In its latest annual report, the company had said Mallya also serves as its principal officer since the company does not have a managing director (MD). ”Even after his relocating to London, he has full control over affairs of the company,” it said.

The Bengaluru-based firm has not had an MD since the resignation of V Shashikanth in May 2014.

Calling it a case of “genuine business failure,” Mallya said, the Kingfisher Airlines episode had turned into a “nightmare” for him for no fault of his.

“What started as a genuine business failure of Kingfisher Airlines, which used to be hailed as the queen of Indian skies, has now turned out to be a nightmare despite the fact that the business failed due to high fuel prices, adverse government policies like taxation, and of course one of the engine types,” said the 60-year-old former chairman of United Spirits, one of India’s largest spirits companies, majority owned by British alcoholic beverages firm Diageo.

Kingfisher Airlines, he said, can account for all the expenditure it had incurred.

Even though he has ignored all summons by Indian courts and hasn’t yet disclosed any plans to return to India and settle his cases, Mallya said he has “great faith” in the Indian judicial system. “I am sure that judicial relief will come our way sooner rather than later,” he told UBH shareholders.

But Mallya has to show up first.