Vijay Mallya Left Country On March 2, Govt To SC


New Delhi: Vijay Mallya left the country last week, the government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court, which was hearing a petition by banks requesting that the liquor baron be stopped from leaving the country.

The court has issued notice to Mr Mallya asking why his passport should not be impounded. “I am told by the CBI that he has left the country, possibly on March 2,” the government’s top lawyer Mukul Rohatgi told the court.

A group of 17 banks had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop Mr Mallya from leaving India because of the massive debt that his grounded Kingfisher Airlines owes them.

The creditors, led by the State Bank of India, stepped up efforts to recover around Rs. 7,000 crore in debts after Mr Mallya last month resigned as chairman of India’s top spirits company United Spirits, a unit of UK-based Diageo Plc.

Mr Mallya could be in London, though his office has not confirmed his whereabouts. He had earlier said that he wants to move to Britain to be closer to his children.

Law Minister Sadananda Gowda said: “Law will look into the matter and we are taking it seriously.”

On Monday, a court blocked a $75 million or Rs. 515 crore settlement between Mr Mallya and Diageo, which requires the businessman to step down as chairman of United Spirits. Mr Mallya was to receive $40 million or Rs. 275 crore immediately and the remainder over five years.

Kingfisher, once India’s second-biggest airline, stopped flying more than three years ago.  Mr Mallya said on Sunday he had no plans to run away from his creditors and was in talks over a one-time settlement to resolve Kingfisher’s debt.

The liquor baron is also confronting a money-laundering case against him by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly sending abroad Rs. 900 crore that his airline borrowed from a bank.