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Mallya: Take my money, use it to fight coronavirus

By Ashish Ray
April 15, 2020 13:39 IST
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A debt recovery tribunal in India ruled that Rs 6,200 crore of Vijay Mallya’s dues -- Rs 5,000 crore as principal and Rs 1,200 crore as interest -- was payable. Mallya claims that out of the sum due, Rs 3,000 crore had already been recovered by the claimants. 

Battered and beleaguered, bogged down by court cases in India and the UK, including an application in London for his extradition to India, businessman Vijay Mallya had a message for the Indian government: “Take my money and use it to fight Covid-19”. 

He praised the lockdown in India, but had previously tweeted: “I have made repeated offers to pay 100 per cent of the amount borrowed by Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) to banks. Neither are the banks willing to take the money nor is the Enforcement Directorate (ED) willing to release their attachments which they did at the behest of banks. I wish the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would listen in this time of crisis.” 

 

Liquor baron Mallya’s KFA failed, leaving him, according to creditors, personally liable to repay debts to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore. The ED seized his and his company United Breweries Holdings’ (UBHL) assets. 

A debt recovery tribunal in India ruled Rs 6,200 crore -- Rs 5,000 crore as principal and Rs 1,200 crore as interest -- was payable. Mallya claimed to this correspondent that out of the sum due, Rs 3,000 crore had already been recovered by the claimants. The banks were unavailable for a reaction. 

Mallya explained: “UBHL on a standalone basis was unable to meet all its liabilities. Therefore, we filed a supplementary interim application before the Karnataka high court, adding promoters’ assets, which together was more than sufficient to pay off debts.” 

He then in his “personal capacity” reiterated to the Supreme Court that he, his family, and UBHL had the assets to liquidate the liability and asked for a speedy disposal of the matter by the Karnataka HC. The apex court, in fact, directed the Karnataka HC to adjudicate on the application within three months, which expired on April 11. 

This deadline, though, has not been met. No order or sale of assets attached by the ED has occurred. Of course, in the past few months, the world has been overtaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, including a nationwide lockdown in India and consequently the Indian judiciary perforce restricted to limited hearings. 

The high court in London on April 9, in fact, cited the court proceedings in India, among other reasons, for delivering the judgment it did in Mallya’s favour and against 13 Indian banks which had petitioned to declare him bankrupt and capture his assets outside India. 

Three of the petitioners -- State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank -- were asked to comment on the outcome. They had not done so till the time of going to press. 

Kingfisher Beer in Europe and the UK is wholly owned by Mallya. It is noticeable that from being primarily available at Indian pubs and restaurants, it has graduated to the mainstream, including major supermarkets selling the beverage. Kingfisher has also become the beer partner of the English Premier League football club, Southampton. 

Last but not the least, Mallya has done a soft launch of Kingfisher TV, featuring King Fishers, a documentary on three European kings talking about their favourite fishing spots in their kingdoms.

Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters.

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Ashish Ray in London
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