Indian investigators seek deportation of tycoon from London

AP News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2016 9:19 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian investigators have asked the government to seek the deportation from Britain of a flamboyant Indian businessman accused of fleeing to London in March while owing more than a billion dollars to Indian banks, an official said Friday.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the Enforcement Directorate, which has been investigating Vijay Mallya's massive debts, asked the ministry to cancel his passport and request his deportation after he failed to appear for questioning.

"The ministry is taking legal opinions on the next step," Swarup said.

The opposition Congress party has accused the government of letting Mallya flee India while being pursued by banks for debts totaling 9 billion rupees ($1.3 billion). The government denies the charge.

India's finance minister, Arun Jaitley, defended Mallya's departure, saying the banks had not initiated the legal process to prevent him from leaving the country by the time he boarded the flight out of India.

Mallya was once hailed as India's version of British tycoon Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

His downfall was triggered by the failure of Kingfisher Airlines, which he launched in 2005. The Indian government in 2012 suspended the license of the airline after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.

Mallya ceded management control of his flagship United Spirits Limited to global spirits company Diageo. Diageo's agreement last month to pay Mallya $75 million in exchange for his resignation as chairman of USL prompted a legal push by competing creditors, who say they should have the first claim to that money.

Mallya is famous for a flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models, Bollywood movie stars and cricket players.