Indian tycoon Mallya faces bankruptcy over $1.5b debt

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Vijay Mallya Image Credit: AP

Twelve state-owned Indian banks are petitioning for ex-billionaire Vijay Mallya to be declared bankrupt over 1.15 billion pounds ($1.52 billion) in unpaid debts.

The banks and an asset restructuring company, led by the State Bank of India, have taken the tycoon to a London court in what lawyers have described as "the end of the road" in their long-running battle. Mallya hasn't paid anything toward the debt, the banks' lawyers told the court Tuesday.

It comes as Mallya, who founded the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., faces extradition to his home country of India to face fraud charges. He was granted permission to appeal the decision, which will be heard in February.

The bankruptcy petition was brought in the U.K. because Mallya has lived there for around 20 years and owns a number of assets in the country, lawyer Marcia Shekerdemian told the court. These include a townhouse in London's Regent's Park thought to be worth more than 30 million pounds, a 13 million-pound mansion in Hertfordshire, three yachts and shares in Force India Formula One Team Ltd.

The petition for bankruptcy should be dismissed because the banks are pursuing the same debt through the Indian courts on a diametrically opposite basis, Mallya's lawyer Philip Marshall said in written submissions. At the very least, the hearing should be adjourned until the determination of Mallya's appeal against the extradition order against him, he said.

Mallya didn't immediately respond to a request for comment sent to him and his attorney.

He was arrested in London in April 2017 after 17 banks accused him of willfully defaulting on more than 91 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) in debt accumulated by Kingfisher Airlines, which shut down in 2012. A willful defaulter is someone who refuses to repay loans despite having the means to do so.

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