NEW DELHI / AFP
A group of Indian banks rejected on Thursday embattled businessman Vijay Mallya’s offer to repay $600 million in unpaid loans, less than half of what his defunct airline owes them.
The banks told the Supreme Court in New Delhi that they wanted the 60-year-old flamboyant entrepreneur to return to India so they could negotiate with him personally over the total $1.3 billion owed.
The founder of Kingfisher Airlines, who is being chased by the group of mostly state-run banks over the unpaid debts, left India last month and his exact whereabouts are unknown.
In a case that has gripped the country, Mallya’s lawyers last week told the court that he was willing to pay 40 billion rupees ($600 million) by September 30.
But lawyers for the banks said Thursday that the offer was rejected after due consideration.
The court, meanwhile, asked the liquor baron to disclose his total assets, along with those of his wife and children. The request came after the banks said they wanted him to deposit a substantial amount of money with the court to prove his bona fide.
His lawyers have until April 21 to file a response.
The businessman was known as the “King of Good Times” before the 2012 collapse of his airline, which left thousands of workers unemployed and millions of dollars in unpaid bills.
Mallya, who has not been charged with any crime, stepped down in February as chairman of United Spirits, the Indian arm of Britain’s Diageo, following allegations of financial lapses.
His surprise departure the following month proved an embarrassment for the government, which was forced to admit he had left the country even as it sought permission to impound his passport.
Opposition politicians have demanded to know why Mallya was not arrested before he flew out on March 2.
The businessman, who is also a member of India’s parliament, has denied absconding and has criticised the media for what he has called a “witch hunt”.