Indian financial crimes agency files money-laundering charge against tycoon absconding in Britain

Vijay Mallya being mobbed by members of the press as he leaves court in central London on June 13, 2017.
Vijay Mallya being mobbed by members of the press as he leaves court in central London on June 13, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (AFP) - India's financial crimes agency filed charges of money-laundering on Wednesday (June 14) against Vijay Mallya, accusing the flamboyant tycoon of siphoning off money from a loan to his now-defunct airline.

The charges brought by the Enforcement Directorate against Mallya - once dubbed the "King of Good Times" for his lavish lifestyle - relate to a loan extended to his grounded carrier Kingfisher Airlines.

The agency is investigating whether India's IDBI bank gave the airline a loan despite knowing of its financial troubles, and whether cash was spirited away.

In a 57-page report the directorate alleged that four billion rupees (S$85.16 million) from the loan deal had been illegally whisked abroad, the Press Trust of India reported. Officials from the bank and airline were also under scrutiny, PTI said.

A court issued an arrest warrant for Mallya after he fled India in March 2016 owing more than US$1.3 billion to state-owned banks.

Indian investigators want the liquor baron brought home to face a series of charges related to his financial dealings, which are being investigated by several agencies.

Mallya, who co-owns Formula One team Force India, was arrested in London in April following an extradition request from India and granted bail.

The 61-year-old appeared before court in London again on Tuesday (June 13) where he maintained his innocence.

"I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them," Mallya said outside the court.

Mallya made Kingfisher beer a global brand, and was a director of Indian Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore until stepping down last year.

He caused a stir last week when he attended India's cricket match against South Africa in London, where Indian fans met him with shouts of "Chor, chor!" (Thief, thief!).

Mallya dropped off India's most wealthy list in 2014, engulfed by the massive debts of his grounded carrier. He now lives in a sprawling US$15 million mansion in England's county of Hertfordshire.