Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya on Tuesday sought financial assistance from the government as crisis enveloped the economy after a countrywide lockdown put a lid on all business activities. He claimed that he has been paying salaries to his employees even though his companies have ceased all operations. The lockdown was imposed nationwide for a three-week period from March 25 to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Mallya faces fraud and money laundering charges resulting from the collapse of his defunct company Kingfisher Airlines. The businessman fled India and moved to London in March 2016. Mallya owes Indian banks more than Rs 9,000 crore.

“Indian Government has done what was unthinkable in locking down the entire country,” Mallya said in a tweet. “We respect that. All my Companies have effectively ceased operations. All manufacturing is closed as well. Yet we are not sending employees home and paying the idle cost. The government has to help.”

The liquor baron, who was accused of diverting funds from his Kingfisher Airlines, said that he had made repeated offers to pay 100% of the amount his company borrowed from the banks. “ Neither are Banks willing to take money and neither is the Enforcement Directorate willing to release their attachments which they did at the behest of the Banks,” he added. “I wish the Finance Minister would listen in this time of crisis.”

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India submitted an extradition request to the United Kingdom in February 2017 after Mallya made his self-imposed exile clear. In July, the United Kingdom High Court allowed him to challenge his extradition order.

On January 1, 2020, a court in Mumbai allowed the banks to utilise Mallya’s movable assets to recover the money they are owed. On January 6, the Supreme Court said Mallya cannot cite the pendency of his plea in the top court to delay insolvency proceedings in courts “anywhere else in the world”.

Last week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an economic bailout package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore to help the poor tide over the impact of the countrywide lockdown. The benefits – through cash and food – were targeted at farmers, migrant workers, the poor, women and the disabled, among others.

As the country entered the seventh day of the lockdown on Tuesday, India reported its sharpest spike in the number of the coronavirus cases as 227 people tested positive in 24 hours, taking the country’s total to 1,251 with 32 deaths. Kerala has the highest number of positive cases at 202, followed by Maharashtra at 198. Delhi recorded 87 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 82 positive cases were reported from Uttar Pradesh.