Fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, above, who is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering worth $1,249 million, made a startling claim on Wednesday that he met India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before fleeing to England in March 2016.
Smoking a cigarette in front of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court after the hearing of his last defence in the extradition case, Mallya told media that he had met Jaitley and offered to settle the issue with banks before leaving for a “scheduled meeting in Geneva.”
Jaitley immediately rejected Mallya’s claim and asked him to come out with a correct statement.
Jaitley said he casually met him in the Parliament’s corridor as he was walking towards his office and had a one-sentence exchange.
He said Mallya was holding a paper which he did not accept. Mallya then mentioned about some offer but Jaitely cut him short and told him to take the offer to the bankers concerned.
Mallya was misusing his position as a MP to accost him outside his office, Jaitley added.
When journalists drew Mallya’s attention to Jaitley’s response to the “meeting” he mentioned, the 62-year-old tycoon corrected himself and said it was only an “informal” meeting “before heading to London.”
Mallya left the media confused on whether he travelled to “Geneva”, as mentioned earlier, or to “London.”
Mallya said that as an MP, he had such casual meetings with other federal ministers too in the Parliament’s Central Hall and outside. He told them about his willingness to settle his dues with banks.
To another question, Mallya said nobody tipped him off before he left the country as there was no need for him to run away.
The UK judge hearing Mallya’s extradition case went through the video of Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail cell where the fugitive is expected to be kept if he is extradited to India.
The judge said he is quite satisfied with the condition of the cell which is well ventilated with high ceiling, a spacious hall with two fans and decent toilet-cum-bath.