Nitin Gadkari said that if we call Vijay Mallya a fraud, our economy will not go any further. (File)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nitin Gadkari on Thursday suggested that it is unfair to tag a "one-time loan defaulter Vijay Mallyaji" as a "chor" (thief), adding that the cornered businessman has a four decade long state of service of timely debt service.
However, Mr Gadkari explained that he is not dealing with Vijay Mallya, who is faced with extradition by the UK for alleged bank fraud and money laundering, which amounts to an estimated Rs 9.000 crore.
"40 saal Mallya regular payment cart raha tha, byaaj bhar raha tha .40 saal baad jab wo aviation mein gaya …. uke baad wo adchan mein aaya to woh ekdum chor ho gaya? … jo pachaas saal byaaj bharta hai wo theek hai, par ek we wo default ho gaya … toh turant sab fraud ho gaya? Ye mansikta theek nahi hai. "
(For 40 years, Mallya regularly learned interest on loans after entering the airline industry, started to get problems, and suddenly became a thief? If someone pays interest 50 years and if he fails once, then everything is all of a sudden fraud? This thinking is wrong), Gadkari said at an economic summit organized by the Times Group.
Mr. Gadkari said that the loan he was referring to from the Maharashtra government company entity Sicom to Vijay Mallya was extended 40 years ago, which he paid back on time and without any notice of default.
With the announcement that ups and downs are an essential part of any business, the road transport minister said that if someone goes through a downward cycle, he or she should be supported.
"There are risks in the company, whether it is banking or insurance, there are ups and downs, but if the mistakes are in good faith, because of global or internal factors in the economy such as a recession, then that person who is in trouble, get support, "said the minister.
As he suffered an election loss for corporate bankruptcy, he remembered how he lost an election when he was 26, but underlined that the loss did not mean that his political career ended.
"If Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallyaji has committed (financial) fraud, send them to prison, but those in distress, and if we label them as fraudsters, will not advance our economy," he said.
Earlier this week, a London court had ordered the extradition of Vijay Mallya, which greatly boosted the government's efforts to bring the fugitive businessman back.
Prior to the extradition hearing, the 62-year-old former boss of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines offered to repay the entire principal sum to banks.
Mr. Gadkari has been calling for a more cautious and realistic approach to NPAs for some time and indirectly blames the bankers for the NPA mess, and says that our banking system is such that it does not support sick businesses.
"When someone is serious, we place him / her on an ICU, but our banking system first places a sick company at the ICU and then makes sure it dies," he said.
Last month, Mr Gadkari had blamed the RBI for "making project funding more complicated" by saying that more than 150 projects with more than Rs 2 trillion investment are struggling to get a financial closure.
"Unfortunately, many times … the circulars issued by the RBI cause more complications and this is one of the reasons why I am having problems with the financial closure," Mr Gadkari had said.