Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya insists innocence at court appearance over India extradition request

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

LONDON (AFP) - Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya on Tuesday (June 13) insisted he was innocent as he appeared at a court in London over an extradition request from India, where he is accused of fraud.

"I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them," the flamboyant financier, who co-owns Formula One team Force India, said outside the court.

"I have not eluded any court. If it is my lawful duty to be here, I'm happy to be here," he added. "I've given enough evidence to prove my case."

Ben Watson, Mallya's representative, told the preliminary hearing that his client could face a second extradition request, including a "separate set of charges".

Mallya fled India in March 2016 owing more than US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion) after defaulting on loan payments to state-owned banks and allegedly misusing the funds.

India submitted an extradition request to Britain in early February after investigators demanded the 61-year-old be brought home to face charges.

Mallya, known for his lavish lifestyle, made Kingfisher beer a global brand and ran a now-defunct airline with the same name.

He stepped down as the director of the Indian Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.

Mallya 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).

His financial dealings are being investigated by the federal Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency.

Mallya was once known as the "King of Good Times" but dropped off India's most wealthy list in 2014, engulfed by the massive debts of his grounded carrier Kingfisher Airlines.

Mallya, who now lives in a sprawling US$15 million mansion in England's county of Hertfordshire, has denied absconding and has criticised the media for what he has called a "witch hunt".