“By taking my passport or arresting me, they are not getting any money."
Amid growing clamor for swift efforts from the government to bring him back to India, beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya has said that he is in “forced exile” and has blamed Indian media for whipping up public anger against him.
In the interview, which is the first since he fled India on March 2, with the Financial Times, Mallya seemed very defensive about his actions in the light of recent developments back home. He has said that he continues to be “an Indian patriot and proud to fly Indian flag.” He is, however, “more than happy to stay in the UK due to the ongoing outcry around him" in India.
“It is important to understand the environment in India today. The electronic media is playing a huge role not just in moulding public opinion but in inflaming the government to a very large extent,” he said.
He has also claimed that the Rs 4,000 crore offer to settle his unpaid debts to the tune of over Rs 9,000 core was “way, way in excess of the World Bank average for settlement of bad debts”.
“We have always been in dialogue with banks saying: ‘We wish to settle’. But we wish to settle at a reasonable number that we can afford and banks can justify on the basis of settlements done before,” he told the Financial Times.
“By taking my passport or arresting me, they are not getting any money,” he added.
Mallya's diplomatic passport, which was issued by his virtue of a sitting member of Rajya Sabha has been revoked by the Ministry of External Affairs. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant has also been issued against his name in connection with over Rs 900-crore IDBI loan fraud case.
Mallya has also claimed that the Rs 9,000 crore sum of unpaid loans, that he owes to a consortium of 17 banks led by state-run public sector bank, State Bank of India was an “inflated amount.”
According to him the actual principal borrowed was a little over £500m (Rs.4,870 crore) and interest as of 2013, when legal skirmishes over repayment began, was £120m (Rs.1,170 crore).
“It is grossly unjust to apply compound interest and artificially inflate this figure,” he was quoted as saying.
He said bankers are not willing to settle due to the fear of receiving flak from the media and vigilance agencies in India.
“As professional bankers, they would like to settle and move on but, because of my image as portrayed, they are reluctant to be seen as giving me any discount,” said.
The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday wrote to the British High Commission seeking the extradition of Mallya. Meanwhile, he was expelled from Rajya Sabha by the ethics committee of the Upper House, seeking an explanation over defaulting on huge loans.