India asks Britain to deport liquor tycoon

Mallya, who used to run a liquor empire, left India on March 2 owing more than $1b and is believed to be in Britain

Afp April 28, 2016
Vijay Mallya is being pursued by a group of mostly state-run lenders over loans made to his collapsed carrier Kingfisher Airlines. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: India's foreign ministry said on Thursday 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.

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Swarup said India had not yet heard back from the British authorities.

Last week an Indian court 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 loans -- meaning in default or close to it -- seen as a threat to financial stability in Asia's third-largest 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 on Thursday.

"If he is deported then once he comes back here he will be arrested at the airport itself."

The businessman, who is also a member of India's parliament, has denied absconding and has criticised the media for what he has called a "witch hunt".

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