New Delhi– Even as the Indian government on Thursday assured that “every possible action will be taken” against beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya, the Congress hit out at the Centre asking “how did it allow Mallya to leave the country”.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday questioned the government as to how it allowed liquor baron Vijay Mallya to leave the country.

Vijay Mallya (Photo: Twitter)
Vijay Mallya (Photo: Twitter)

“I asked a clear question to Jaitley-ji, How did Mallya-ji escape from India? Someone who has stolen Rs.9,000 crore from the government, how did you allow him to leave the country,” Gandhi asked.

The issue was also raised in the Rajya Sabha by Leader of Oposition Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, who said Mallya should not have been allowed to leave as there were serious charges against him.

“He could have been identified even at the airport when he was leaving as he is a prominent figure and most people recognise him,” Azad said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley invoked the case of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi while countering Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the government had failed to act against Mallya.

Quattrocchi was an Italian businessman who was sought until 2009 in India for criminal charges of acting as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal.

Countering Rahul Gandhi’s allegation, Jaitley later told reporters: “Rahul Gandhi should understand that going away of Ottavio Quattrocchi and Vijay Mallya is not the same. When CBI had alerted government about Quattrocchi, it was a criminal case and the then government did not stop him.”

Jaitley also added that there is a legal procedure on impounding a passport and action could be taken only based on the provisions of the Passport Act.

During Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said Mallya, as of the end of November 2015, owed about Rs.90 billion to various banks in the country.

He was responding to the issue raised by Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who wanted to know why the government did not “confiscate” the passport of the chief of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

The Congress leader wanted to know why the government and State Bank of India did not act against Mallya in time, which helped him to flee.

Jaitley said every member of the house shares the concern raised by Kharge, but said the sanction of money to Mallya was made during the UPA regime.

“The banks have started taking action against the companies to recover the debt. Certainly every possible action will be taken against all the defaulters,” Jaitley said in the Lok Sabha.

“Some cases were filed in different courts across the country and some counter-cases were also registered,” he added.

Jaitley also said that as of November 30, 2015, the total dues compounded with interest stands to the tune of over Rs.9,000 crore ($1.5 billion) against Vijay Mallya’s companies.

“As far as accounts are concerned, first sanction was made by the consortium of banks in September 2004,” and then again in 2008. “These dates speak for themselves,” he said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Mallya was “no saint” for the NDA regime.

Dissatisfied with Jaitley’s reply over Mallya leaving the country, the Congress and the Left parties staged a walkout.

Meanwhile, the biggest public sector lender State Bank of India denied any laxity on the part of the consortium of banks in seeking reliefs against the defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. (KFAL), its promoters and holding-associated company.

It also refuted certain media reports (Not the IANS) purportedly blaming the SBI, the leader of the consortium, for the crisis and termed these as based on “hearsay and conjecture”.