Wanted Indian liquor tycoon in ‘forced’ UK exile

Happier days: Vijay Mallya (C, in white) poses with models during the launch of the Kingfisher 2014 calendar in Mumbai on December 21, 2013. (AFP)

Once known as the “king of good times,” Indian liquor tycoon and former airline boss Vijay Mallya has entered a trying phase in his life.

Famous back home for his popular beer and spirits empire, and a low-cost airline which shuttled millions around his populous country before going bankrupt, the 60-year-old businessman is now taken refuge in the UK, wanted by Indian authorities.

After the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines in 2014, Mallya owes hundreds of millions of dollars to state-owned Indian banks. The Indian government has revoked his passport and requested UK authorities to extradite him.

“By taking my passport or arresting me, they are not getting any money,” Mallya told the UK-based Financial Times paper in an interview published on Friday.

The tycoon told the paper that he would repay around $642 million on an outstanding principal of $748 million borrowed from state-owned lenders.

Tough case

Mallya, who had left India for the UK in early March, can ask the British authorities to allow him to continue his stay in that country - or challenge the revocation of his passport. He told the paper that he is in “forced exile.”

His is chairman of the United Breweries Group, a Bangalore-based conglomerate that controls half of India’s alcoholic beverages market.

The now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines has about $1.3 billion in unpaid debt. But Mallya disputes the figure, calling it an “inflated amount” due to the interest compounding through payment disputes that began in 2013.

Mallya is also subjected to a non-bailable warrant in a money laundering investigation back home. He has denied wrongdoing.

A Friday article in Indian news outlet Firstpost said that Mallay’s case would be “tough” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to handle.

“The Kingfisher chief’s dominant mood… is that of defiance in a battle versus banks,” the article said.

Going by the course of the case, it is doubtful if the government’s pressure tactics with Mallya, to get back the money he owes the banks, will work.”

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47