A newspaper has released the email trail of an alleged interview with Vijay Mallya after the Indian businessman denied giving it a statement. The Sunday Guardian said it stands by the interview it published online on 12 March, in which it reportedly spoke to the drinks tycoon who has fled the country amid heavy debts.
In the alleged interview, Mallya said that while he is "an Indian to the core" and wanted to return to the country, he was hesitant and did not feel that "the time is right". The email trail also claims to show Mallya urging the journalist not to "twist" his words to "suit any narrative".
On 14 March, Mallya took to Twitter to dismiss the interview published by the Sunday Guardian. He said that he had not given a statement to anyone and claimed not to have heard of "protonmail", the encrypted email server that the Sunday Guardian claimed Mallya sent his email from.
The former "King of Good Times", also known as "India's Richard Branson", wrote on Twitter: "Shocked to see Sunday Guardian's claim that I exchanged mails with them from my protonmail account. Have never heard of protonmail before. I have not given any statement to anyone."
However, on 15 March the Sunday Guardian released an email trail that claims to show the interview between one of its correspondents and Mallya. The newspaper said that the email address had been confirmed by the businessman's legal office on 8 March, following which it sent him questions on 10 March and Mallya replied on 12 March.
A statement from the Sunday Guardian noted: "For reasons that are not clear, Mr Mallya has sought to distance himself from the interview. We, however, stand by our report. The email trail is attached. Mr Mallya personally responded to our email questionnaire from his encrypted email ID."
The Sunday Guardian quoted Mallya as saying: "Of course I want to return. But I'm not sure I'll get a fair chance to present my side. I've already been branded as criminal. I do not feel the time is right. I feel passions are high. People need to think rationally. They need to understand that business, whether large or small, has risks involved."
The alleged interview also claims that Mallya refused to disclose his wherebouts, saying that he wanted to "feel safe". However, Mallya's tweets noted: "The Sunday Guardian's claim that I wrote to them from my so called protonmail account to the reporters protonmail account is a total fake."
Editorial director of the Sunday Guardian, Madhav Das Nalapat, told Firstpost: "There is no ambiguity on the genuineness of the interview. It is 100% genuine. It may be that there was pressure on him from his lawyers and the Enforcement Directorate that certain things he said in the interview would be harmful and hence he was forced to lie about this."
On 9 February India's Supreme Court heard that heavily indebted businessman Mallya had fled the country. The news broke as banks across India have been attempting to recover more than $1bn (£700m) in unpaid loans from the drinks tycoon.