“Arun Jaitley is lying, Congress leader PL Puniya saw him meet Vijay Mallya,” Rahul Gandhi said
Vijay Mallya and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were witnessed by a Congress leader having a discussion in parliament just two days before the fugitive tycoon’s flight to the UK, Rahul Gandhi alleged today.
“Arun Jaitley is lying, Congress leader PL Puniya witnessed his meeting with Vijay Mallya,” Rahul Gandhi said, a day after the finance minister rubbished Vijay Mallya’s claim that he had met him before leaving for London in 2016.
“The finance minister has to explain to the country why he has colluded with the criminal and why was he having a meeting with a criminal, what was discussed?”
The Congress president handed the mic to PL Puniya, who said he had seen Mr Mallya and the finance minister speak in the Central Hall of parliament in March 2016, when the liquor baron left India and flew to the UK amid attempts to recover over Rs 9,000 crore in unpaid loans from him.
“I was in the central hall of Parliament House. I saw Jaitley and Mallya talking in the corner. After 5-7 minutes, they sat on the bench and started talking. Mallya had come for the first time just to meet Jaitley,” Mr Puniya said.
“After that on March 3 — he left for London on March 2 — my reaction was, he met Jaitley two days ago,” added the Congress leader.
Mr Mallya, 62, told reporters outside a UK court hearing a case on his extradition to India yesterday: “I left because I had a scheduled meeting in Geneva. I met the finance minister before I left, repeated my offer to settle with the banks. That is the truth.” He said he had also told the minister that he was leaving for London.
Arun Jaitley, who was the finance minister in 2016 when Mr Mallya left India, emphatically denied his claims. “Since 2014, I have never given him any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise,” he wrote on Facebook.
“He misused that privilege (of being an MP) on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking uttered a sentence that ‘I am making an offer of settlement’…Having been fully briefed about his earlier ‘bluff offers’, without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him ‘there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers’,” Mr Jaitley said.
“The finance minister talks to an absconder. He tells the minister I am going to London and the finance minister didn’t even tell the CBI or police. Why not,” Rahul Gandhi said today.
He also referred to questions swirling around the dilution of a lookout notice against Mr Mallya by the CBI. “Who changed the notice on Mallya’s arrest? If Jaitley has done it himself, then he should confess. It’s an open and shut case.”