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India's Vijay Mallya denies fleeing over debt

The flamboyant entrepreneur has slammed media reports speculating on his departure from India. Mallya owes more than 1 billion euros to a conglomerate of banks following the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines.

Indian businessman Vijay Mallya on Friday denied allegations that he fled the country amid a

wave of allegations that he absconded

amid a surge of interest in his more than $1 billion debt following the collapse of

Kingfisher Airlines in 2012.

"I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish," Mallya wrote in a series of tweets attempting to deflect criticism for boarding a plane on March 2 and departing the country.

Mallya, who built his wealth through investments in liquor and brewing in the 2000s, owes 90.91 billion Indian rupees ($1.36 billion, 1.22 billion euros) to a group of more than 12 banks, including India's largest, State Bank of India.

The

Formula One team

boss lashed out at news reports speculating on his departure, describing them as a "media witch hunt." The Sahara Force India F1 team, based at the Silverstone race circuit, is one of the reasons why Mallya has owned - and frequently used - a home in the UK for several years.

"As an Indian MP, I fully respect and will comply with the law of the land. Our judicial system is sound and respected. But no trial by media," Mallya said. "Once a media witch hunt starts, it escalates into a raging fire where truth and facts are burnt to ashes."

Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in October 2012 after the company failed to pay pilots and engineers for months

Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in October 2012 after the company failed to pay pilots and engineers for months

'Criminal conspiracy'

Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition Congress Party, on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of "a criminal conspiracy in letting Mallya fly out of the country."

India's Federal Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that authorities could not prevent Mallya from embarking the flight since he has not been charged with a crime.

"We intend to recover the entire amount," Jaitley said.

ls/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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