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Vijay Mallya is an Indian businessman at present fighting extradition from the UK. Mallya, who owes 17 Indian banks an estimated Rs 9,000 crore, is accused of fraud and money laundering in the country.
Also a former Rajya Sabha member, Mallya is the ex-chairman of United Spirits. He currently continues to serve as chairman of United Breweries Group. Previously, he also served as chairman of Sanofi India and Bayer CropScience, among other companies.
Of all his businesses, Vijay Mallya's name is most closely associated with now defunt Kingfisher Airlines. The airline company, launched in 2005, proved to be his undoing, as its business model floundered in 2008, when a global recession and soaring fuel prices brought it to a grinding halt.
Facing heat from lenders following the collapse of the airline, Mallya fled to the UK in 2016. Mallya has publicly offered to make good on his debts and said he has been doing so since 2016.
How Mallya ended up being a fugitive economic offender
Mallya inherited UB Spirits, known for the Kingfisher beer brand, from his father and turned it around into India’s biggest spirits maker. He became the chairman of UB Group at the age of 28.
However, most other businesses of the group were not as successful, Kingfisher Airlines being the biggest failure.
Started in 2005, Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in 2012 after a burgeoning debt burden made it impossible for the beleaguered airline to continue operations. The airline is also being investigated for suspected diversion of funds and financial irregularities.
Mallya left the country on March 2, 2016, the day a clutch of public-sector banks moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal against him. In January 2019, he was declared a fugitive economic offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
What is Mallya’s response to the allegations?
Mallay has denied all allegations and publicly offered to repay the full principal amount he owes the lenders.
Just before leaving the country in 2016, Mallya wrote an open letter defending himself. “All enquiries conducted have failed to find evidence of misappropriation of funds by Kingfisher Airlines or myself,” Mallya said. “Despite pledging blue-chip securities and depositing significant amounts in court, a successful disinformation campaign has ensured my becoming the poster boy of all bank NPAs.”
What next?
The Indian government is making all efforts to extradite Mallya from the UK. In February 2019, UK Home Secretary approved the extradition. The case is now pending in the London High Court, where Mallya filed an appeal against the order. The appeal has been listed for a three-day hearing from February 11, 2020.