Liquor baron Mallya, un­der pres­sure from banks, leaves In­dia

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

In­dian liquor baron Vi­jay Mallya, un­der pres­sure from banks to re­pay more than $1 bil­lion of debt owed by his col­lapsed air­line, left the coun­try last week, a lawyer for the lenders told the coun­try's top court.

More than a dozen state-run banks - led by the coun­try's largest, State Bank of In­dia (SBI.NS), - had ap­pealed to the Supreme Court ask­ing that Mallya be stopped from leav­ing as they step up pres­sure on the one-time bil­lion­aire.

On Wed­nes­day, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mukul Ro­hatgi, rep­re­sent­ing the banks, told the Supreme Court he had been told by po­lice that Mallya left In­dia on March 2, and asked the court to de­mand his re­turn. Mallya's ex­act where­abouts are not known. The court has asked Mallya to re­ply to a no­tice is­sued to him within two weeks, af­ter which it will hear the case again.

De­tails of the no­tice were not made pub­lic. Mallya, an ex­trav­a­gant, larg­erthan-life per­son­al­ity who billed him­self as the "King of Good Times", has be­come one of In­dia's most fa­mous er­rant bor­row­ers, with news­pa­pers closely fol­low­ing the for­tunes of his yacht, jet and prop­er­ties.

The debt at the heart of his trou­bles is owed by his King­fisher Air­lines, but was per­son­ally guar­an­teed by Mallya.

A spokesman for Mallya's UB Group did not re­spond to calls and email seek­ing com­ment.

In a state­ment on Sun­day, Mallya said he had no in­ten­tion of run­ning away from cred­i­tors and was in talks with them for a one-time set­tle­ment of the King­fisher debt. Mallya was last month ousted as the chair­man of top In­dian spir­its maker United Spir­its (UNSP.NS), a unit of Bri­tish spir­its gi­ant Di­a­geo Plc (DGE.L).

A sep­a­rate tri­bunal on Mon­day tem­po­rar­ily blocked a $75 mil­lion set­tle­ment Mallya is due to re­ceive from Di­a­geo.

King­fisher, once In­dia's sec­ond­biggest air­line, col­lapsed in 2013, leav­ing cred­i­tors, sup­pli­ers and em­ploy­ees un­paid. The air­line owed banks 69.63 bil­lion ru­pees ($1.03 bil­lion) as of the end of Jan­uary 2014. In­clud­ing in­ter­est and other ex­penses, its li­a­bil­ity is about 90 bil­lion ru­pees ($1.34 bil­lion), Ro­hatgi told the Supreme Court.

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