Monday 23 July 2018

Business tycoon in extradition case faces journalists after fire alarm forces court evacuation

Vijay Mallya arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Vijay Mallya arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Jack Hardy

An Indian business tycoon due to face extradition proceedings has insisted fraud allegations against him are unfounded - after an evacuation of the court building brought him face to face with journalists.

Entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, chairman of the UB Group and co-owner of Silverstone-based Sahara Force India F1 team, is wanted in his home country and was due before Westminster Magistrates' Court on Monday.

But a fire alarm forced him instead to walk into the glare of the media spotlight outside the central London building.

Reporters from across the globe had gathered to see the drinks and aviation magnate arrive and quickly seized the opportunity to question him.

TV crews from India pursued Mr Mallya haphazardly around the pavement as he tried to avoid being cornered.

He told reporters the accusations against him were unfounded, while angrily telling one broadcaster he would not stand for "trial by media".

Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya Credit: David Davies/PA Wire
Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Mr Mallya was arrested in April by the Metropolitan Police's extradition unit on behalf of authorities in India, where he is wanted in connection with money laundering and high value bank demands.

India's Enforcement Directorate has been gathering evidence as part of its investigation into the tycoon's debts, totalling £977 million, linked to Mr Mallya's now-defunct airline Kingfisher.

Mr Mallya told reporters: "The allegations are baseless, unfounded, deliberate and you will see our submissions in court."

Tailed by the press pack, he continued: "The answer will be given to the judge - you think you are going to conduct a trial by media?"

The tycoon sold off his drinks firm, United Spirits, to Diageo in 2013 in order to prop up the airline, which went bust shortly afterwards.

Indian investigators said last year that Mr Mallya had not been co-operating and had ignored their summons to give evidence three times.

A court hearing earlier this year was told by his lawyer that the case could be "the first-ever fast-track extradition" from Britain to India.

Mr Mallya is also a former MP in India and entered the UK on a valid passport in March 2016.

Press Association

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