The once-self-proclaimed ‘King of Good Times’, who now regrets he has been made the poster-boy for bank fraud, is set to earn another dubious distinction by becoming the first person to be declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ under a new law promulgated to deal with willful defaulters like him.
The liquor baron, who fled India two years ago and has since been living in London, has refused to honour summons served by Indian courts and law-enforcement agencies to appear before them for trial in various cases. But the long arm of the law seems to be catching up with him as the government has issued the Fugitive Economic Offender Ordinance, under which failure to appear before the authorities would “entitle” him to become the first such proclaimed fugitive. Once he gets his new “status”, all his properties can be confiscated.
Never tired of creating high-voltage drama, Mallya, the other day, denied he was a willful defaulter and alleged that he was being made out to be the poster-boy for bank default and “a lightning rod of public anger, but there’s nothing he can do if politically motivated extraneous factors interfere” with his efforts to settle his dues.
Playing the victim card, he claimed that he was tired of the “relentless pursuit by the government and its criminal agencies” and had even written to the Prime Minister and the finance minister in 2016 to explain his side of the story, but received no response. But the authorities see his latest claim as just another diversionary tactics in which he has proved himself to be a past master.
But, behind the facade he is trying to put up, the realisation is dawning on the prodigal tycoon, who once relished his status as the icon of flamboyance, surrounded by beautiful girls, that all the pomp and show he funded with money belonging to the public will be of no avail as his assets go under the hammer one by one.
It is a universal norm that any distress sale fetches only a fraction of the original value of the asset. Mallya’s well-appointed luxury jet, with a registration number carrying the initials of his name, was last week bought by a US company for a little over $5 million, while its original worth was estimated to be at least $100 million. And the sale finally happened after three failed attempts.
Mallya is learning the hard way that, in the long run, only honesty commands a premium. And this is a lesson that awaits many others, including comrade-in-arms Nirav Modi and entourage. One hopes that the new law puts the fear of God into these wretched souls, who have the avarice of satanic proportions to live off others’ money.