New Delhi: Under fire over huge unpaid loans of long-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, a defiant Vijay Mallya today said he is making efforts to reach a ‘one-time settlement’ with banks through additional payments to the lenders, even as he denied “personally” being a “borrower or judgement defaulter” and alleged that “disinformation campaign” was being played to make him a “poster boy” of all bad loans.
Rejecting allegations that he is an “absconder” in the wake of his statement to spend more time in England after signing a “sweetheart” deal with Diageo, the liquor baron said he will continue to cooperate with investigative agencies related to the loans provided by banks to long-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Mr Mallya, who has agreed to step down as Chairman of United Spirits Ltd in return for $75 million to be paid by Diageo, also insisted that he is not a “borrower or a judgement defaulter” and he has challenged the “willful defaulter” tag by some banks, which he alleged did not go after borrowers who “owe much more than the amount allegedly owed by Kingfisher Airlines.”
He also alleged that the State Bank of India, which has dragged him to Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) seeking his arrest and seizure of his passport to claim his Rs. 515 crore sweetheart deal to exit United Spirits, was well aware of the financial stress of Kingfisher Airlines for a long time and the same was reported by the state-run lender to the Reserve Bank of India way back in January 2012 – months before the once-luxurious air carrier was grounded in October that year.
Mr Mallya, who was widely known as ‘King of Good Times’ and his lavish parties before his businesses started plunging into one after another crisis resulting in sale or closure of various companies, also said that while banks would eventually recover a “substantial part of their debt”, the loss for his group is permanent.
Putting the blame also on media and the TRP race, he said in a statement banks in India have NPAs of Rs. 11 lakh crore and have borrowers who owe much more than the amount allegedly owed by Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) –“a fact never alluded to or widely reported by the media as in my case”.
The statement came a day before DRT is scheduled to give its verdict on the plea of the SBI, which leads the consortium of banks that are seeking to recover loans worth about Rs. 8,000 crore alongwith interest and penalties.
“I have been most pained as being painted as an absconder – I have neither the intention nor any reason to abscond. I have been a non-resident for almost 28 years and the Reserve Bank of India has acknowledged this in writing,” he said in the statement.
Mr Mallya has come under an intense media glare in recent weeks after a deal he inked with Diageo, the current controlling owner of United Spirits that was set up by his family but had to be sold off due to financial stress in his UB Group.
He further said: “Over the years, I have built successful businesses in India and abroad. I am also honoured to be a member of the Rajya Sabha. I have been summoned before various investigative agencies and have duly attended and cooperated with each of them, and I will continue to do so.”
Reacting to what he termed as “near hysterical campaign in the media” directed against him, Mr Mallya said: “My statement as to my personal future after quitting Diageo/USL – that I want to spend more time in England closer to my children – has been grossly distorted and misportrayed. I wish to reduce my business commitments gradually and devote more time to my family, and that my resignation from United Spirits was a step in this direction.”