India revokes liquor baron Mallya's passport amid loan scandal

Former airline chairman Vijay Mallya speaks to the media during a news conference in Mumbai.
Former airline chairman Vijay Mallya speaks to the media during a news conference in Mumbai. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's government has revoked former airline boss Vijay Mallya's passport, after he failed to appear before investigators over a loan probe, the foreign ministry said on Sunday (April 25).

Mallya, a part-owner of the Force India Formula 1 team who used to run a liquor empire and Kingfisher Airlines, left India on March 2 despite calls for his arrest and is believed to be in Britain.

The 60-year-old, once dubbed the "King of Good Times", had his diplomatic passport suspended earlier this month after he failed to appear before India's financial crimes agency in connection with the loan case.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup said the decision was taken after Mallya's unsatisfactory reply to notices served by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) agency.

"After having considered replies by Vijay Mallya, MEA revokes his passport under Passports Act," Swarup said.

The ED is looking into the finances of Kingfisher Airlines, which ceased operating in 2012 leaving millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

On Monday, an Indian court issued an arrest warrant for Mallya after he failed to appear for questioning at the ED, which is seeking his extradition from Britain.

The agency's investigation relates to loans which the state-run IDBI bank made to Kingfisher Airlines, despite allegedly knowing it was suffering financial troubles - leading the bank to sustain huge losses.

A group of Indian banks, mostly state-run, are also chasing the embattled tycoon to recover US$1.34 billion (S$1.8 billion) in unpaid loans.