Vijay Mallya owes more than $1 billion, escapes from India

UPDATE Indian banks may be looking for Vijay Mallya to pay up Rs 9,000 crore, but the "willful defaulter's" flight out of India was in the lap of luxury.

Mallya took Jet Airways' Delhi-London flight 9W 122 last Wednesday (March 2) at 1:30pm, said a top government official.

Accompanied by a woman, Mallya flew first class to London. And he did not travel light, packing a lot of stuff for his journey out of India.

"He checked in seven big pieces of luggage. The meet and assist service provided to all first class passengers was accorded to Mallya and his companion," said a source. Locals in Hertfordshire, north of London, where Mallya has a luxury residence, confirmed spotting him.

"There was no bar on Mallya traveling abroad on the day he left India. Banks moved the SC to ensure he remains in India only after he left India. The timing is curious and points to someone tipping off Mallya about the banks' impending move because of which he chose to leave India and he did not travel light," said a former confidante, now among hundreds of unpaid Kingfisher employees. Accompanied by a woman Mallya took Boeing 777-300 extended range of Jet Airways to fly out of Delhi on March 2.

The identity of Mallya's woman companion could not be ascertained by the time of going to press. "She was not one of the famous models or Bollywood biggies who used to be seen with Mallya in his good days. This was not exactly a young or well known person," said a source.

Flying first class made sense for someone desperate to stay out of the limelight. It usually has low occupancy and the cabin crew is strict about not letting other flyers sneak in.

03/10/16 A tussle between banks and debt-laden Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya escalated into a full-blown political row Thursday as opposition leaders attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for the businessman’s surprise departure from the country.

Mr. Mallya, who owes billions of rupees in loans for his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, left the country last week even as a consortium of banks petitioned India’s Supreme Court to seize his passport.

"How did the government allow him to escape?" Rahul Gandhi, vice president of India’s main opposition Congress party, told reporters outside Parliament Thursday. "When a poor man steals, he is thrown into jail. But when a powerful businessman steals he is sent on a first-class ticket."

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley sought to reassure lawmakers. "The banks are taking all steps to recover every penny lent to him and they will recover it," he told Parliament. "Before his passport could be seized, he had left the country."

Mr. Jaitley said Mr. Mallya owes lenders–mostly state-run Indian banks–more than 90 billion rupees ($1.3 billion.)

Mr. Mallya’s whereabouts remain unclear. A spokesman for his United Breweries Group declined to comment. The flamboyant businessman has been battling court cases after his Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in 2012 and effectively shut down. The airline still owes money to airports, tax authorities and its workers.

Indian banks stepped up the pressure on Mr. Mallya after Diageo PLC last month offered him a $75 million settlement in exchange for his resignation from United Spirits Ltd., a unit of the Britain-based alcoholic-drinks maker and a company Mr. Mallya once controlled.

Banks petitioned an Indian court, saying they had the “first right" over the Diageo money. An Indian court Monday temporarily blocked Mr. Mallya from accessing the funds.

In a statement Sunday, Mr. Mallya said he was in talks to enter a “one-time settlement with the banks." At the time he said he had no intention of fleeing. “I have been most pained as being painted as an absconder–I have neither the intention nor any reason to abscond," Mr. Mallya said in the statement.

Diageo completed its acquisition of United Spirits in 2014, retaining Mr. Mallya as chairman as part of the deal. The liquor-maker has been tightening corporate practices at United Spirits since the takeover. Last month, after several attempts to oust Mr. Mallya from the company, it secured his resignation

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