Liquor baron Vijay Mallya said to have left India

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, facing court action over Rs9,000 crore he owes a consortium of 17 banks in overdue loans, raised mostly by his collapsed Kingfisher Airline, left the country last week with the $40 million he received from Diageo as severance pay, say reports.

The news comes a day after banks moved the Supreme Court seeking an order to impound Mallya's passport and restrain him from going abroad, as the lenders pressed for recovery of the nearly Rs9,000-crore that his collapsed airline owed them.

Vijay Mallya is reported to have left the country last week, reportedly on 2 March, before the lenders could put hands on his severance payment from Diageo, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who represents the lenders, told the Supreme Court.

Rohatgi told the apex court that he had been told by police that Mallya left India on 2 March, and asked the court to demand his return. Mallya's exact whereabouts are not known.

The Supreme Court, however, issued notice to Vijay Mallya and sought his reply within two weeks in response to a petition filed by the banks to block him from fleeing the country.

The court has asked Mallya to reply to the notice within two weeks, after which it will hear the case again. Details of the notice were also not known.

More than a dozen banks, led by the country's largest lender State Bank of India, had appealed to the Supreme Court that Mallya be stopped from leaving the country.

Since the court was informed that Mallya has already left the country, probably to the UK, the bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman allowed the AG's plea that the notice to him be served through his official Rajya Sabha Email ID, Indian High Commission at London and also through counsel representing him before various high courts, Debt Recovery Tribunal and also through his company.

Mallya had announced his intention to shift to the UK in a statement issued after his deal with Diageo that entitled him to Rs515 crore ($75 million) as severance package and stepped down as chairman of United Spirits, a company he sold to the UK major three years ago.

The State Bank of India, the lead lender in the consortium, had last week moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal in Bangalore claiming first right on the payment and seeking to impound Mallya's passport.

The DRT has barred Mallya from accessing the Rs515-crore severance package from Diageo, but its next hearing will be on 28 March. (See: DRT rules against Mallya accessing Rs500-cr from Diageo deal).

The consortium of banks, meanwhile, filed their appeal in the court seeking to restrain him from going abroad. But, now it seems the banks acted a bit too late as, according to some reports, Mallya might have already received $40 million of the $75 million severance package.

The banks would also have to explain to the Supreme Court why loans were given to Mallya when he was already a defaulter and was facing proceedings in the court of law.