In a setback to beleaguered United Breweries chairman Vijay Mallya, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked him to disclose all his and his immediate family’s assets, both domestic and overseas, to banks that are seeking the recovery of over Rs 9,000 crore dues from the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya’s wealth, as per his own statements, comprises domestic assets worth Rs 2,014.60 crore and overseas assets worth Rs 780 crore.
A bench of justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman directed the liquor baron to give the details of his overseas assets held by him, his three children and his estranged wife to the State Bank of India-led consortium of 17 banks after attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the information is necessary to assess the liquor baron’s capacity to pay and arrive at a meaningful settlement. Mallya had earlier given these details in a sealed envelope to the court but argued against revealing the same to the banks, citing privacy. Stating that Mallya was playing “hide and seek” and is a “fugitive from justice”, Rohatgi said that the government will approach the UK government if further action against Mallya is required.
The court said: “We find that this court on April 7 had directed respondent 3 (Mallya) to disclose assets in (an) affidavit. It was not qualified to be in a sealed cover. The whole purpose was to have an idea of meaningful settlement on the proposal made by respondent.”
It also asked the banks to act on the disclosures in accordance with law.
The bench also slammed Mallya for not honouring its order directing him to deposit a specific amount upfront in the court to prove bona fides, give a possible date for his return to India and disclose all assets held by him and his family members in India and abroad. “You have not complied with April 7 order in letter and spirit…,” justice Nariman observed.
Mallya has shown willingness to deposit a total of Rs 2,920 crore, including net sale proceeds of his 32.29% stake in United Breweries Holdings and Rs 1,329 crore lying with the Karnataka High Court.
The court on Tuesday also asked the debt recovery tribunal, Bengaluru, to expedite hearing of the recovery suit within two months. The bench rejected the arguments put forth by Mallya’s senior counsel CS Vaidyanathan that only domestic assets were taken into consideration at the time of granting or restructuring loans and hence the lenders cannot claim any entitlement now on disclosure of his overseas assets.
The judges recorded Vaidyanathan’s statement that overseas assets held by Mallya, his estranged wife and children were not covered under the personal guarantee given by Mallya to the banks to return the loans. “I don’t have free money which I can deposit. All my money is hypothecated, my bank accounts are attached and all money received from share sale is under litigation,” Mallya’s counsel told the court. He, however, denied having any information on when his client would return to India, but argued that the banks were not interested in any settlement but want to “park him behind the bars” and his “returning to India is meaningless given the context”.
He further told the court “I (Mallya) am a defaulter, but not a wilful defaulter. I have sunken and lost it… `6,000 crore advanced by family promoters is gone. There is nothing at all to show any misuse of lenders’ money. There is no benami property of mine held in any other relative’s name. Property of my wife and children come from a trust which was created by my father. None of them are traceable to any money I borrowed from the banks.”
Rohatgi, however, argued that the UB chairman failed to comply with the court’s order to indicate his probable date to appear before the apex court and cannot claim the privilege of not disclosing details of his assets abroad.
“Whatever comes his way, he swallows. He does not wish to come back. We want our money and we are not concerned about his losses,” the AG said on behalf of the consortium.