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India revokes passport of tycoon who owes millions

Published 24/04/2016

Vijay Mallya gets into his car outside the Parliament in New Delhi (AP)
Vijay Mallya gets into his car outside the Parliament in New Delhi (AP)

India has revoked the passport of a flamboyant businessman accused of fleeing to London in March while owing more than £900 million to Indian banks.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the decision to revoke Vijay Mallya's passport was taken considering the evidence gathered by India's Enforcement Directorate, which has been investigating the tycoon's massive debts.

The ministry was also consulting legal experts on seeking Mallya's deportation from the UK to face charges of money laundering and financial irregularities.

The opposition Congress party has accused the government of letting Mallya flee India while being pursued by banks for debts totalling 90 billion rupees (£937,345,880). 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 by the time he boarded the flight out of India.

The Enforcement Directorate told the government that Mallya was not co-operating with the investigators, after he ignored three dates when he was summoned to give evidence to them.

The government last week suspended the businessman's passport, after giving him a week to explain why his passport should not be revoked.

It was committed to bringing Mallya back to India to face justice and was "considering steps for Mallya's deportation," Swarup told reporters on Friday.

Mallya was once hailed as India's version of Sir Richard Branson, for his investments in a brewing and alcohol 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 licence 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 £52 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.

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