Netflix is screening a three part series titled “Bad Boy Billionaires – India”. The documentary outlines certain elements of the stories of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Subrata Roy. The documentaries are inaccurate, inadequate and misleading.

The series on Subrata Roy of Sahara alone has some real research done by Dr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurtha (former editor EPW) and few others. The rest are just opinions of few journalists and others who have known this three including few former employees!

Vijay Mallya is shown as a great dreamer, innovator who thinks big but the Kingfisher Airlines failed due to over ambition. It is also accused that public sector banks are willing to lend any amount and they are corrupt. Yes Banks were willing to lend as it was the liberalisation era, Kingfisher was an attractive airlines and Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries was doing a roaring business. Loans were given as per RBI guidelines and later RBI permitted banks to buy Kingfisher shares (which became like toilet paper later) and the laws of the country are inadequate even today to realise the securities. 

What is missed out is that he had political connections, was a Member of Parliament and was allowed to go abroad. Even now he has a luxurious life. His son is defending him in the documentary against whom no action has been taken.  Kingfisher Airlines was a birthday gift to him. He is willing to pay the Principal even now. Where is that money? Why the government and banks can’t take that? You can still pursue to get the interest.

It is absolutely incorrect to say that public banks were corrupt which gave loans.  While giving the loans, the Airlines proposal was a very viable proposal.

In the case of Nirav Modi it is shown that he was the best employer, even now the employees consider him a God and want him to come back. He created a name for Indian Diamonds but one Dy. Manager of Brady House Branch of Punjab National Bank Gokul Nath Shetty and a clerk Manoj Karat were corrupt and gave Letter of Undertakings (LOU) worth Rs.11800Cr over a period of many years which helped him to expand the business.

Is it possible to have a diamond business in London, Hongkong, New York, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi and more with this money alone and become one among 500 Fortune billionaires? Is it possible that the controllers and auditors did not know of Rs.11800Cr business without security?

Only after this incident came to light RBI made changes in SWIFT and LOU. The clerk is out of jail. The officer retired is in jail but what about the real truth?  At least the documentary producers have mentioned that the frauds came to light because of an honest officer of the bank but a journalist keeps accusing the public sector banks.

Nirav Modi also had political connections, attended the World Economic Forum along with the Prime Minister and went to London from India when the fraud came to light and for one year, he was not traceable by police but a journalist could find him in London living in a luxury apartment.

Subrata Roy is within India. He started with a Lambretta Scooter in UP and became one of the richest in the country with 11 lakh employees in his company.  He used the weakness of the poor, non-availability of banking network in rural, semi urban areas and slums where poor live.

Here again at least the documentary acknowledges that the staff of Stock Exchange Bureau of India (SEBI) stood firm in spite of his dramas of sending 127 truckloads of documents to Mumbai for physical verification. I don’t know what the authorities will do now as he is out of jail and has started his manipulations.  His son’s marriage was attended by the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Amitabh Bachan, Kapil Dev and all celebrities in the country, especially the journalists who attended the wedding and his frequent extravagant parties.

What is common to this three bad boys are that they had very high political connections, they used their extravagant parties to earn good will of journalists and politicians, provided funds to political parties and they knew the system well, especially how to manipulate. They could also use the black money of the richest in the country.

What is important for us is not this 3 who are exposed, who will ultimately go scot free, who still have money power and hoards of lawyers to save them and a very poor legal system for recovery of assets.

I wonder what is the Economics Intelligence Wing doing?

What is important is that there are many more in the country who follow the same system, methods and manipulative politics.

Dhirubhai Ambani said,”I do not violate the law, but I get the laws changed according to my need. Everyone has a price and I am willing to pay”.

Anil Ambani claims he is bankrupt but lives a luxurious life, Mukesh Ambani is the richest Indian who has all connections within the country and abroad and if real investigations are done their enterprises are likely to fall like a pack of cards.

Gautam Adani has had various cases against him and he gets everything from the government and banks. His enterprises will also collapse one day because he is living beyond his means and his businesses are not doing that well. Some of his companies are already in losses.

Vedanta Agarwal is another manipulator who follows similar pattern.

It’s unfortunate that the Tatas who used to be hailed as model employers, who used to be philanthropists today are the biggest donors to the ruling party. Ratan Tata had to visit Nagpur. Is there more to be known to us than what is known? 

Will the newspapers really find out? They live on advertisements and gifts.  

Will the Tax authorities really watch?

Will SEBI really act?

Will the banks quit from this corporates and lend to the larger masses who are honest.

Will the RBI bring ceiling on loans to corporates which was promised few years ago? Or continue to relax norms to help Ambani’s as they have done many a times?

We require more detailed analysis. Bad Boy Billionaires are not three or four.  There are many in the country. Unfortunately, they rule the Country. 

Thomas Franco is former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.

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