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A Lawbreaking Lawmaker

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  12 March 2016 12:00 AM GMT

The Union government has been obliged to inform the Supreme Court that Vijay Mallya, businessman and politician, fled the country on March 2 and left for London. He has obviously done so because he owes a consortium of 17 banks in India a sum of over Rs 9,000 crore. There is no doubt whatsoever that this lawbreaking lawmaker has systematically sought means to defraud Indian banks of huge amounts mainly in order to be able to sustain a kind of lifestyle well beyond the limits of his persol assets within the country apart from getting banks to save his Kingfisher Airlines that had long ceased to be a viable proposition. What everyone knew was that not even God could have saved Kingfisher Airlines from the kind of fincial mess it was in. By March 2013, the accumulated losses of Kingfisher Airlines stood at Rs 16,023 crore. The banks that went on giving him huge loans knew about the condition of Kingfisher Airlines better than anyone else in the country. And now that no one was even remotely inclined to prevent Vijay Mallya from leaving the country, the heads of the 17 banks that indulgently kept on throwing good money after bad against their sound banking sense are looking for scapegoats to blame their bad decisions on.

The Opposition has slammed the Union government in Parliament over Vijay Mallya’s ability to perform the vanishing trick with such consummate ease. The Centre deserves every bit of the criticism heaped on it for not being able to prevent Mallya from leaving the country, considering that this could have easily been achieved by confiscating his passport. At the same time, the Opposition which also has the 44 members of the Congress in the Lok Sabha cannot afford to forget how Ottavio Quattrocchi was helped to escape from India despite his links with the Bofors scandal. And as expected, Union Fince Minister Arun Jaitley did bring up the Quattrocchi episode in Parliament. But since we believe that two wrongs do not make a right, it is certainly pertinent to ask the Union government as to how Mallya was able to escape and why the present government learned nothing at all from the Quattrocchi bungle. Vijay Mallya was able to leave the country despite being a defaulter to 17 banks because he was helped to leave the country by those who chose to look the other way. There was a lookout notice against him issued by the CBI. Lookout notices are issued to alert immigration authorities to prevent any move on the part of a person facing probes from leaving the country. That Mallya was able to leave India on March 2 despite the lookout notice having been issued, is a clear indication that he had a lot of help from a lot of people fairly high up in government. Quite obviously, Mallya was able to secure this help not because people loved him, but rather because he was able to pay handsomely from borrowed money for such help.

What is amusing in the entire episode is that there should be this ritual of pretended astonishment at Mallya’s effortless escape from India by one and all (including the heads of the 17 banks that he had maged to take for a ride) and that the government should be incapable of doing anything more than mere tongue-clicking at his escape. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the liquor baron and sought his response within two weeks on please find by the consortium of 17 banks seeking direction for freezing his passport and for his presence before the apex court. However, the Supreme Court refrained from asking Mallya to persolly appear before it. But it allowed the plea of the Attorney General (AG) that the notice to Mallya be served through his official Rajya Sabha e-mail ID, through the Indian High Commission in London (where he may be at present) and also through various high courts, debt recovery tribuls and through his company. What is certainly amusing is that even the apex court should entertain expectations that a pathological lawbreaker like Vijay Mallya would respond to any of the notices served in any manner and through any channel. He is the most outstanding example of a lawbreaking lawmaker who gives both Parliament and the country a bad me. If our government fails to bring Vijay Mallya back to India for trial it will earn a bad me not merely for inefficiency and neglect but also for collusion with a lawbreaking lawmaker.

The principal questions that need to be asked in respect of Vijay Mallya’s ability to swindle 17 banks is why the chairmen and the chief executive officers of these banks chose to advance loans to a habitual defaulter whose airline had accumulated losses that were almost double the Rs 9,000 crore that he had maged to extract from these banks against all dictates of common sense and sound banking practices. By March 2013, Kingfisher Airlines had a total liability in excess of Rs 16,000 crore. How was any bank justified in advancing any loan at all to such a company? There are two aspects of the loans advanced to Mallya that are even more condemble. The first is that the collaterals offered against these loans were worth about a tenth or fifteenth of the huge amounts that he was able to borrow. None of the banks seemed to have any objections to advancing huge loans even against such poor collaterals. The second adverse aspect of the loans that Mallya was able to secure is that his assets abroad are known to be worth several times the Rs 9,000 crore that he was able to secure from the consortium of 17 banks. That is why it is imperative that Mallya should be brought to India and tried here. Meanwhile, a way will have to be found by the stakeholders of the 17 banks for putting on trial their chairmen and CEOs for having jeopardized the banks with loans that they knew very well would never get repaid.

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