- Arun Jaitley said Vijay Mallya misused his position as parliamentarian
- Mr Jaitley said he never gave an appointment to Mr Mallya
- Mr Mallya's extradition verdict in a British court is on December 10
Fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya on Wednesday said he had a "meeting" with Arun Jaitley before leaving India in 2016, a sensational claim that was rubbished by the finance minister as "factually false".
The 62-year-old liquor baron, facing fraud and money laundering charges, was speaking to reporters outside a UK court hearing a case on his extradition to India when he was asked if he was "tipped off" to leave the country. "I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth," he responded, without naming the minister. He said he had also told the minister that he was leaving for London.
Arun Jaitley, who was the finance minister in 2016 when Vijay Mallya left India, emphatically denied his claims in a Facebook post and in comments to the media. He said he never gave him an appointment after becoming a minister in 2014 but the fugitive liquor baron misused his position as a parliamentarian to accost him once in parliament.
Terming Vijay Mallya's offer to settle overdue loans of over Rs 9,000 crore to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airline as "bluff offers", the minister said he did not even take the papers Mr Mallya was carrying during that brief encounter.
"Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise," he wrote on Facebook.
"He misused that privilege (of being an MP) on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that 'I am making an offer of settlement'... Having been fully briefed about his earlier 'bluff offers', without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him 'there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers'," Mr Jaitley said.
Vijay Mallya later backtracked, blaming the media for misrepresenting facts and essentially confirming the minister's version of events. But he repeated that he had told the minister he was flying to London.
The wanted businessman's comments have ignited a fierce opposition polemic against the government, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate the charge and calling for Mr Jaitley's resignation until the inquiry was done.
Given Vijay Mallya's extremely serious allegations in London today, the PM should immediately order an independent probe into the matter. Arun Jaitley should step down as FInance Minister while this probe is underway.- Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 12, 2018
After Mallya reveals his 'consultation meetings' before his smooth escape, with Fiscal Mismanagement Blog Minister Sh Jaitley - one thing is clear - BJP is running "tour travels & immigration" agency for "loot scoot & settle abroad" brigade. https://t.co/n39NfDw0rS- Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) September 12, 2018
Opposition parties said Mr Mallya's comments proved corrupt businessmen were escaping the country with the government's collusion.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury questioned how Mr Mallya was allowed to fly out. "The fundamental point is how he got away despite 'lookout notices'?" Mr Yechury tweeted.
As with the Rafale scam and Choksi scam, this latest revelation by Mallya puts Modi govt in the dock. It is not the finance minister alone, we cannot be sure what other facts are being hidden even now. #Mallya#Modi#Scams- Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) September 12, 2018
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know."
Bihar politician Tejashwi Yadav said PM Modi must answer.
Entire Modi government is hand in glove with scamsters & absconders. They hatched a plot to loot hundreds of thousands of Crores. PM & FM must respond on this. https://t.co/uDuby8c5li- Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) September 12, 2018
Last month, during his visit to the UK, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the Narendra Modi government is going easy on some businessmen like Vijay Mallya. "Before Mallya left India, he met senior BJP leaders. That is documented. I won't name them," Rahul Gandhi had told reporters in London.