NEW DELHI, June 14, (AFP): Indebted tycoon Vijay Mallya accused Indian government agencies of deeming him “guilty without trial” and lambasted the country’s financial crime fighters for leading a “heavily biased” investigation against him.
The flamboyant 60-year-old beer baron left India in March for the UK, under hot pursuit from banks over $1.34 billion in loans granted to his collapsed carrier Kingfisher Airlines and yet to be repaid.
He has repeatedly failed to appear before investigators at the Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency, who suspect him of misusing funds loaned by a state bank.
In a rare statement, Mallya responded to reports that India’s federal investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, was taking further steps to probe him and the airline.
“It is, indeed, sad and disappointing that the thousands of documents submitted by us and interrogation of several executives seems insufficient to convince them there has been no wrongdoing,” he said.
“I have maintained and continue to maintain that there has been absolutely no misappropriation or diversion of funds and strenuously deny any allegation to the contrary.”
Mallya rejected reports he had refused to go before the Enforcement Directorate, which has issued three summons for his appearance, but said he had simply sought time to sell assets to pay employees, tax authorities and the banks.
He added that he had offered to appear before officials via video conference.
“It surely appears as if these agencies are pursuing a heavily biased investigation and are already holding me guilty without trial after which I need to prove my innocence,” he said.
“Purely civil matters such as loan recovery are being connected with criminal allegations without any basis whatsoever.”
A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate was not immediately available for comment.
The government revoked Mallya’s diplomatic passport in April after he repeatedly failed to appear before investigators.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in May the government would seek to extradite the indebted tycoon after Britain turned down its request to deport him.
Once dubbed the King of Good Times for his lavish lifestyle, the entrepreneur’s massive debt has become a symbol of Indian banks’ vast volume of bad loans — meaning in default or close to it — seen as a threat to financial stability in Asia’s third-largest economy.
In an interview with the Financial Times in April, Mallya said he was prepared to settle millions of dollars owed to banks but had no plans to leave Britain.
A former MP, he resigned from his seat in the parliament’s upper house ahead of a likely expulsion over his huge debt defaults.
India and the United Kingdom signed an extradition treaty in 1993.