Flamboyant tycoon Vijay Mallya, India’s self-styled “King of Good Times,” has denied leaving the country in order to avoid his creditors.
“I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish,” Mallya, founder of the doomed Kingfisher Airlines, tweeted on Friday.
Mallya took over the chairmanship of his father’s massive beer company in 1983. He co-owns a Formula 1 team and is sometimes described as India’s version of Richard Branson.
But he is also on the hook for roughly $1.3 billion in loans made to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
A group of 17 banks have struggled to claw back loans to the airline after it failed in 2012. Earlier this week, they asked India’s Supreme Court to ensure Mallya remained in the country.
But Mallya had already departed. Indian media have traced him to a village north of London.
“I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently,” Mallya tweeted on Friday.
“As an Indian [Member of Parliament] I fully respect and will comply with the law of the land,” the beer baron continued. “Our judicial system is sound and respected. But no trial by media.”
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The controversy over Mallya’s exit from India raged full bore in India’s media on Friday as the country’s top political parties traded barbs over the issue. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Thursday that Mallya’s lenders, including lead creditor State Bank of India, would make every effort to recover the funds.
“As far as the government is concerned, the clear instructions are that the banks must go all out to take every possible action,” Jaitley told Parliament.
Mallya was until recently the chairman of United Spirits, the India business of British liquor giant Diageo.
Following accusations of impropriety, Diageo announced in February that Mallya would resign in return for $75 million over five years. Diageo said an initial payment of $40 million was to be made immediately.