By Douglas Busvine and Rahul Bhatia
MUMBAI Vijay Mallya, the Indian liquor and aviation tycoon, was charged on Tuesday with conspiracy and fraud connected to a 9 billion rupee ($132 million) loan granted by a government-owned bank, a spokesman for the Central Bureau of Investigation said.The head of the Force India Formula One team and a former owner of an Indian Premier League cricket team, one-time billionaire Mallya moved to Britain last March after being pursued in courts by banks seeking to recover about $1.4 billion the Indian authorities claim is owed by his Kingfisher airline.The CBI, in its charge-sheet, accused Mallya of diverting from India 2.54 billion rupees intended for the now-defunct airline.In total, charges were brought against Mallya and nine other people, as well as the airline itself. A former chairman and managing director of the government bank, IDBI Bank Ltd, was arrested along with another four bank executives.The CBI also arrested the airline's chief financial officer and three senior officials.The CBI spokesperson said the officials would be held in judicial custody until Monday, pending a bail hearing.
A spokesman for Mallya coud not immediately be reached for comment despite calls and a text message.The arrests made were the first since 2014, when the CBI initiated an enquiry into loans provided by the bank to the already debt-ridden airline.The Mallya case has emerged against the backdrop of regulatory scrutiny over bank loans to over-extended companies.
The diplomatic passport Mallya was issued after becoming a member of Indian parliament's upper house was revoked in April 2016 after a non-bailable warrant for his arrest was issued. The Indian authorities had sought ways to have Mallya, who has said he is living in "forced exile", deported by Britain.In an interview with Reuters in 2016, Mallya said that he owed half of what was being reported. He also said he would return to India on the condition that he was "assured of a fair trial... if at all there needs to be a trial."
The CBI action against Mallya may open the doors for India to begin work on a formal extradition process, after Britain rebuffed India's deportation request last year.The CBI refused to comment on possible extradition proceedings when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday. ($1 = 68.1499 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Rahul Bhatia; additional reporting by Zeba Siddiqui; Editing by Jane Merriman/Keith Weir)
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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2017 19:50:50 IST