Vijay Mallya refutes diversion of funds allegations

Mallya Vijay denies accusation of wrongdoing
Mallya Vijay denies accusation of wrongdoing

BELEAGUERED Indian businessman Vijay Mallya has insisted all his transactions at United Spirits Limited (USL) were “legal and above board” after the company disclosed in a stock exchange filing that company funds were diverted.

Mallya has been living in the UK for the past four months while authorities in India seek his arrest as several banks there have declared him a “wilful defaulter” for non-payment of dues worth over `90 billion by his now-defunct Kingfisher.

In February, the 60-year-old businessman struck a settlement with USL and under the “sweetheart deal”, he was promised a payout of `5bn to leave the company and also absolved of any “personal liability” at that time.

However, in a stock exchange filing last Saturday (9), USL said that it found fund diversion and improper transactions worth `122.53bn involving entities linked to Mallya, including his Kingfisher Airlines and Formula One team.

The company also made it clear that the earlier settlement reached would not absolve Mallya of the claims arising out of the latest findings of an internal “additional inquiry”.

While USL did not name auditors EY among those who conducted the enquiry, it said the company’s CEO had engaged “independent experts with specialised forensic skills” to assist in the inquiry and provide inputs and expert advice.

“I have absolutely no knowledge about this purported enquiry by EY nor the suggested allegations. Surprisingly neither USL nor EY have given me any details of the allegations or any opportunity to respond,” Mallya said in an emailed statement.

“I can only reiterate that all transactions were legal, above board and approved by USL auditors, the USL board and shareholders.”

He added: “Over and above this, Diageo conducted an extensive due diligence on USL prior to acquiring shares. It is surprising and unfortunate that unfounded allegations are now being made without any reference to me whatsoever.”

USL said it will be report the findings of its additional inquiry spearheaded by its managing director and CEO Anand Kripalu to authorities concerned for further action.

Mallya is currently wanted in India and faces charges of money laundering. A consortium of 17 banks lead by the State Bank of India (SBI) has been trying unsuccessfully to recover dues from the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. His passport has been revoked by the Indian government.

Last month India’s Enforcement Directorate attached assets worth `14bn belonging to Mallya and one of his companies in connection with its money laundering investigation into a bank loan default.