Bad days ahead: Vijay Mallya speaking on phone
AN INDIAN court filed an arrest warrant on Friday (October 12) for Vijay Mallya, a Formula One tycoon nicknamed the “King of Good Times”, over allegations that cheques written by his troubled airline had bounced.
The non-bailable warrant was issued in the local sessions court in Hyderabad against Mallya and four other executives in a dramatic escalation of the crisis facing his cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines.
Mallya’s whereabouts were not immediately known although a member of his entourage said he was out of the country.
The warrant was issued as the airline announced it was extending its shutdown until October 20 due to a dispute with striking staff over wages that have not been paid for seven months. Kingfisher has been grounded for nearly two weeks.
“At this time, the airline is hopeful of resuming operations starting October 21st,” Kingfisher said in a statement late Friday.
The arrest warrant for Mallya was triggered after a complaint was lodged before the court by GHIAL, the operator of Hyderabad airport, over non-payment of bills.
‘The cases were listed today for the airline to appear in the court,” said a GHIAL spokesman.
“Since they failed to appear before the magistrate, the court has ordered issuance of NBW (non-bailable warrants) against Kingfisher Airlines (KFA), Vijay Mallya and four other KFA officials,” the spokesman added in a statement to reporters.
Kingfisher’s lawyers had urged the court not to issue the warrants but their request was dismissed by Judge Kedara Chary, said a report from inside the courtroom.
The cheques for Rs105m ($2m/£1.24m) were to settle user fees at the airport for services such as the parking of jets and landing charges.
Mallya is a cigar-puffing tycoon who inherited his father’s beer business and built it into an empire spanning fertilizers, top European alcohol brands, Formula One team Force India and a cricket club, Royal Challengers Bangalore.
But the 56-year-old, who is also an independent member of parliament, has come unstuck with Kingfisher Airlines, which was launched in 2005 but has never made a profit.
The debt-ridden airline, named after Mallya’s biggest beer brand, owes billions of dollars in taxes, airport fees and to staff who have not been paid since April.
With its fleet on the ground, it faces the prospect of having its licence cancelled.
Negotiations on persuading staff to return to work foundered once again on Friday and the fleet will therefore remain grounded until at least October 20.
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