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Indian business icon arrested in the U.K. on money laundering charges

Vijay Mallya, who owns a liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and a Premier League cricket club, escaped India after failing to repay millions in loans



NEW DELHI—British police have arrested Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya in London on behalf of authorities in India, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and bank demands that he pay back more than a billion dollars in loans extended to his now-defunct airline.

Mallya was arrested after showing up in a police station early Tuesday, said a statement from the Metropolitan Police in London. At a preliminary hearing, Mallya was granted conditional bail and released with the case adjourned until May 17.

In New Delhi, the government hailed Mallya’s arrest, saying it would not spare anyone who indulged in fraud.

“Mallya will be brought back to India. The government is working toward it. No one will be spared,” said Santosh Gangwar, the junior minister for finance.

India’s Enforcement Directorate, now investigating the liquor baron’s debts totalling 94 billion rupees ($1.45 billion), asked a New Delhi court last year to demand Mallya’s presence during proceedings.

At the time, it said Mallya was not co-operating with investigators, and three times ignored their summons to give evidence.

Mallya was famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models and Bollywood stars. He was once hailed as India’s version of British tycoon Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

But he ran into trouble when he failed to repay millions of dollars in loans and left India last year amid attempts by a group of banks to recover the money.

The failure of Kingfisher Airlines, which he launched in 2005, began his slippery slide into debt and triggered the collapse of several of his businesses. The Indian government in 2012 suspended the airline’s license after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.

He had been living in the United Kingdom since March 2016 and had refused to return to India to face trial.

India cancelled his passport and began an extradition process asking the U.K. government to deport him to India.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, the country’s equivalent of the FBI, had charged the beleaguered tycoon with cheating and conspiracy for defaulting on a 9 billion rupee loan, given in 2009. The loan was intended to buy aircraft parts, but Mallya was accused of having transferred it abroad.

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