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Hyderabad: A court in Hyderabad on Friday issued an arrest warrant for billionaire Vijay Mallya, owner of debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines, a spokesman for the complainant said.
The non-bailable warrant was issued in the local sessions court against Mallya, who also co-owns Formula One team Force India, over Kingfisher cheques to the operator of Hyderabad International Airport that bounced.
-The cases were listed today for the airline to appear in the court,- said a spokesman for the complainant in the case, airport operator GHIAL.
-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 AFP.
The cheques for Rs105 million rupees (around Dh7.3 million) were to settle user fees at the airport, which is run by Indian infrastructure group GMR.
Kingfisher, which has billions of dollars in debts, has not paid staff for seven months and is desperately seeking a foreign buyer to save it from complete collapse.
The warrant is the latest blow and comes after India’s civil aviation regulator issued a notice to Kingfisher, which has grounded its fleet for the last two weeks, threatening to cancel its licence.
Hyderabad’s police chief Anurag Sharma told AFP his department had not yet received the warrant.
-So far I am not aware of it but [once we receive it] we will see what exactly is the instructions,- commissioner Sharma said.
There was no immediate response from Mallya, who is also an independent lawmaker.
Calls by AFP to Kingfisher executives’ mobile telephones were not answered on Friday but a person who answered the phone at the tycoon’s home in New Delhi said he was out of the country.
'King of Good Times'
Cigar-puffing billionaire Mallya is nicknamed the -King of Good Times-.
As well as his Formula One team, he is also the owner of Royal Challengers Bangalore, one of the teams in cricket’s Indian Premier League.
But he has run into serious difficulties with Kingfisher Airlines, which was launched in 2005 and has never made a profit.
The company was India’s second-largest airline until a year ago but now it has a market share of just 3.2 per cent, the smallest of the country’s carriers.
A report by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, a Sydney-based consultancy, says Kingfisher’s debts total $2.49 billion including bank debts of $1.1 billion, and it had accumulated losses of $1.9 billion.
The 56-year-old Mallya is in talks to sell part of his profitable Indian liquor empire United Spirits to Diageo, the world’s largest distiller.