Fugitive willful defaulter Vijay Mallya has taken to Twitter to offer the principal amount he owes to Indian public sector banks. Currently, in the United Kingdom, the liquor baron is being pursued by Indian authorities over a number of charges and fears imminent extradition. His tweets came hours after Christian Michel, the middleman in the Agusta Westland Chopper scam, was extradited by UAE authorities to India. He also faces fears of confiscation of up to Rs. 12,500 Crores worth assets while the ED has already taken possession of assets worth over Rs. 8,050 Crores.
Vijay Mallya owes about Rs. 9000 crores to 17 Indian banks, and after almost three years of hustling with the Indian government and media he asserts that it is the government which is not ‘taking the money back’. “Please take it”, he says twice in his tweets.
I see the quick media narrative about my extradition decision. That is separate and will take its own legal course. The most important point is public money and I am offering to pay 100% back. I humbly request the Banks and Government to take it. If payback refused, WHY ?
— Vijay Mallya (@TheVijayMallya) December 5, 2018
If it were that easy for the “King of Good Times”, he should have voluntarily returned to India by now. But the business tycoon has a number of cases filed against him, enough to put him behind bars for a long time. With serious charges of money laundering, tax evasion and fraud the extravagant spendthrift is looking at up to seven years in jail, or more.
Besides these offenses, the lesser talked about crimes of Vijay Mallya are lurking in the shadows and in this case the phrase, “Please take it”, if ever offered, will never be enough. These are the injustices caused to the thousands of Kingfisher Airlines employees and customers who still await their salaries and refunds.
Ever since the glamourous Kingfisher Airlines began crashing, making unprecedented losses the employees faced the brunt when they stopped receiving their salaries for months on end. Strikes by airline staff and pilots led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights from 2010 till the ultimate cancellation of KFA’s flying license by DGCA in October 2012.
Numerous passengers have not been refunded since the time their flights were canceled, and this does not even compare to the suffering caused to KFA’s near 3000 employees while about 7000 in total lost their jobs. The man who has been granted a weekly allowance of Rs. 16 lakhs by London High Court, owes 300 crores to his employees who largely remain stranded after not being paid for months and many have not been able to find suitable jobs after the KFA catastrophe. It should be noted that all employees based abroad were paid and the top 30 to 40 employees were put on the books of United Breweries. KFA CEO Sanjay Agarwal was paid Rs. 3 crore in 2013.
In a letter written to the Prime Minister, in June 2018, the KFA staff raised the issue of unpaid salaries and the inability to withdraw provident funds. They also alleged diversion of Rs. 3700 Cr. in loans from KFA to Vijay Mallya’s Formula 1 and IPL teams. Many employees have alleged that income tax was deducted from their salaries by the company but never deposited with the Income Tax Department. In all, the salaries, the gratuity accrued nor the provident funds were accessible to the beleaguered employees. It is rightly said by the staff members that Mallya has blood on his hands, as the wife of a staff member committed suicide citing distress caused by non-payment of husband’s salary for six months.
The inconvenience caused to KFA’s employees is unquantifiable, from losing their homes, the stress of outstanding loans and EMIs to struggling to find jobs that paid even a fraction of what they made at KFA, while they still await, but with little hope, the payment of their hard earned money. Banks can go on with NPAs building up as public money masters at emancipating financial debacles, but the emotional distress, caused by Mr. Mallya’s poor decisions, that continues to impinge on the lives of ordinary citizens is unassessable, indelible and unforgivable.