India asks Britain to deport liquor tycoon

MUMBAI: Then Indian United Breweries Group chairman Vijay Mallya (C, in white) as he poses with models during the launch of the Kingfisher 2014 calendar in Mumbai in this file photo. — AF

MUMBAI: Then Indian United Breweries Group chairman Vijay Mallya (C, in white) as he poses with models during the launch of the Kingfisher 2014 calendar in Mumbai in this file photo. — AF

NEW DELHI: India’s foreign ministry said yesterday it has asked Britain to deport the embattled former airline boss Vijay Mallya, who faces a money laundering investigation. Mallya, a part-owner of the Force India Formula 1 team who used to run a liquor empire, left India on March 2 owing more than $1 billion and is believed to be in Britain.

Last week India revoked his passport, after he repeatedly failed to appear before investigators looking into financial irregularities at Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased operating in 2012 leaving millions of dollars in unpaid bills. “As of today, the ministry has written to the High Commission of the UK in Delhi requesting the deportation of Sri Vijay Mallya so that his presence can be secured for investigations against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002,” ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup told journalists.

Swarup said India had not yet heard back from the British authorities. An Indian court last week issued an arrest warrant for the 60-year-old, once dubbed the King of Good Times for his lavish lifestyle. His massive debt has become a symbol of Indian banks’ vast volume of bad loansmeaning in default or close to it-seen as a threat to financial stability in Asia’s thirdlargest economy.

Critics say the government has not done enough to tackle the issue of wealthy individuals such as Mallya, who obtain huge loans that they later fail to repay. The Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crimes agency, has reportedly accused him of siphoning off money from Kingfisher to buy property abroad-a claim the company denies. “I don’t think they are going to deport him but we have to make an effort, we can’t keep sitting on it,” a directorate official told AFP on condition of anonymity yesterday. “If he is deported then once he comes back here he will be arrested at the airport itself.”

Banks in pursuit
On Tuesday India’s top court said details of embattled tycoon Mallya’s assets would be shared with the banks chasing him over $1.34 billion in unpaid loans, despite his protestations the information should be kept private.

The Supreme Court said banks should be given details of Mallya’s overseas assets, as well as those of his wife and children, as India’s attorney general branded the absent entrepreneur a “fugitive from justice”.

Earlier this month the banks rejected his offer to repay $600 million and told the Supreme Court they wanted him to return to India so they could negotiate with him personally over the total owed. — AFP

This article was published on 28/04/2016