New Delhi/London (Face2News)
Vijay Mallya, the Indian tycoon who called himself the King of Good Times, was arrested in London on Tuesday, having fled his home country more than a year ago under an avalanche of unpaid bills and allegations of fraud. India canceled Mr. Mallya’s passport in April 2016, after a court in Mumbai issued a warrant for his arrest, and on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police in London said its extradition unit had arrested Mr. Mallya “on behalf of the Indian authorities in relation to accusations of fraud.” Mr. Mallya was scheduled to appear at a London court on Tuesday, the police said in a statement.The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation said a request for Mr. Mallya’s extradition was sent to Britain on Feb. 8.Mr. Mallya dismissed the news as “media hype,” but he confirmed on Twitter that an extradition hearing began on Tuesday. He has previously disputed accusations that he fled India to avoid bad debts, saying on Twitter that he travels “to and from India frequently.” “I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder,” he added. “Rubbish.”Santosh Kumar Gangwar, an Indian finance minister, told reporters that the country’s authorities were “ascertaining the facts and trying to find out how to bring him back to our country and start legal proceedings against him.”“We will not spare him legally,” Mr Gangwar said.Often likened to the British entrepreneur Richard Branson, Mr. Mallya owns the United Breweries Group, which makes Kingfisher beer and distributes a wide variety of products, including alcohol, chemicals and fertilizer. He also has a stake in India’s only Formula One auto racing team, Force India.
Mr. Mallya established an airline, also called Kingfisher, which had large ambitions, expanding internationally and adding a luxurious business class. But it struggled in a competitive domestic market and had a ragtag collection of aging and inefficient planes. By 2012, after persuading lenders to restructure its debt, it ceased operations in the face of high fuel prices and a global slowdown.
Kingfisher Airlines owed more than $1 billion in loans, as well as back pay to former employees and other bills. Because Mr. Mallya himself, and the United Breweries Group, had backed some of the loans, creditors chased them for repayment. As the dispute went through the courts, banks tried to seize Mr. Mallya’s assets, and Indian authorities raided his homes and offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa in 2015.
According to the British Home Office, arrest warrants are issued in response to extradition requests only if such requests are certified by officials and then sent to a court for the warrant to be issued.If the judge in Mr. Mallya’s extradition hearing approves the request for him to be sent back to India, then it is sent to Britain’s home secretary for final approval.