Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday said fraud is “completely unacceptable” and that his statement on businessman Vijay Mallya’s track record of repaying loans had been taken out of context, ANI reported. Gadkari clarified that he had also said that an investigation into any irregularities committed by Mallya is justified.

On Thursday, Gadkari was quoted as saying that it would be unfair to describe Mallya as a thief because he had regularly made loan payments for close to four decades and had only defaulted on payment once.

“For 40 years Mallya was regularly paying interest on loans,” Gadkari had said at an event in Mumbai. “After entering the aviation sector, he started facing problems, and suddenly he became a thief? If a person repays the interest for 50 years, and if he defaults once, then suddenly everything is fraud? This mindset is not correct.”

Mallya has defaulted on loans worth over Rs 9,000 crore and has been living in self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom since March 2016. Earlier this week, a court in London ordered his extradition after finding a prima facie case of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering against him.

The minister added that businessmen going through a downward cycle need to be supported. “There are risks in business, be it banking or insurance, there are ups and downs,” said Gadkari. “But, if the mistakes are bona fide, because of global or internal factors in the economy like a recession, then that person who is facing difficulties must be given support.”

“If Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallyaji have committed [financial] fraud then send them to jail, but whoever comes in distress, and if we label them as fraudster then our economy will not progress,” he added.

Clarifying on Friday, Gadkari said: “There is a clear difference between business cycle downturns and financial fraud. My statement is about support during downturns to protect jobs. Fraud is completely unacceptable.”

Speaking at the same event, Gadkari also defended the Centre and said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had not destroyed the Reserve Bank of India as an institution. The central bank is part of the government and has to support the economic vision of the government, he added.