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Vijay Mallya: India’s most controversial businessman?


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Reuters

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Vijay Mallya denies the allegations against him

Controversial tycoon Vijay Mallya is waiting to learn whether he will be extradited to India to face charges of financial crimes.

Once called the “King of Good Times” due to his extravagant lifestyle, the businessman has been embroiled in financial scandals since 2012 and stands accused of fraud and money laundering – allegations he denies.

If he is sent home from the UK and found guilty, it will be a spectacular fall from grace for a man whose lifestyle brands have achieved global recognition and who has even spent time as a politician.

Mr Mallya became chairman of conglomerate United Breweries Group in 1983 aged just 28, inheriting the job when his father died.

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Kingfisher Airlines racked up huge debts

It is best known for producing Kingfisher, India’s most popular beer, but has also branched out into chemicals, paints and publishing, buying The Asian Age newspaper and Bollywood film magazine Cine Blitz.

However, the businessman’s more recent ventures have courted controversy.

Kingfisher Airlines, launched in 2005, grew to become India’s second largest domestic carrier, but racked up debts of more than $1bn (£755m) – much of which remains outstanding.

It was wound down in 2012 amid reports that pilots and cabin crew had worked unpaid for 15 months.

Mr Mallya was also forced to resign as chairman of United Spirits, India’s biggest distiller, after its new owner Diageo accused him of financial wrongdoing.

Diageo is now suing the tycoon to recover payments worth $181m.

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AFP

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Mr Mallya has also had a political career

Despite the controversies Mr Mallya has maintained his trademark flamboyance and indulged his passions.

He helped co-found a Formula 1 team, Force India (although it went into administration in July when his assets were frozen), and bought Indian Premier League cricket franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore for more than £70m.

He was even a member of the upper house of India’s parliament, elected in 2002 and then again in 2010. He quit in 2016 amid allegations of wrongdoing.

Since then his creditors and regulators have been closing in.

A group of Indian banks are seeking to recover more than $1bn of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

And India’s fraud office is investigating claims he funnelled loans to the struggling airline via other firms, and hid personal assets.

The businessman has denied all allegations, labelling the investigation against him as a “witch hunt”.



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