Vijay Mallya: Uncovering India's 'King of Good times'

Before becoming a financial criminal, Vijay Mallya owned India's biggest liquor company, flight services, and many more other riches

Force India co-owner, Vijay Mallya, talks outside Westminster Magistrates, in central London
Force India co-owner, Vijay Mallya, talks outside Westminster Magistrates, in central London Reuters

Vijay Mallya, the Indian liquor baron who now stays in London ruled the headlines once again, as he got arrested by India's Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday, October 3. Interestingly, within three hours, he was granted bail by the Westminster magistrates' court on a bond of £650,000.

The flamboyant businessman, once renowned as the "King of Good Times" and the Indian incarnation of Richard Branson is now the hottest target among India's various investigative agencies. Mallya is now charged with financial crimes worth 9000 Crores INR, and the Indian Government is trying hard to extradite him from U.K to his native land.

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the ED are expecting to get their man in the December 4 hearing. Bringing back Vijay Mallya be a long haul for the Indian Government, as the country's success ratio in getting extradited criminals is less than 36 percent in the last 15 years.

How did Mallya fell to the current plight? Is it because of Mallya's irresponsible way of business conduct or the decision of his lenders in 2010 that gave a second lease of life to his airlines which was already bleeding?

A rich childhood

Vijay Mallya was born as the son of business tycoon Vittal Mallya on December 18, 1955. Even though born in the midst of riches, the childhood memories of Mallya was bitter, as soon after his birth, his parents got separated. Young Mallya who had deep affection towards his father decided to stay with him, and he missed the much needy motherly affection during his growing years. After completing his graduation in 1976, Mallya interned at the American part of Hoechst AG.

Things took a new turn in his life when his father died in 1983. Mallya who was aged 28 soon became the chairman of United Breweries Group. In 1986, he married Sameera Tyabji, an Air India attendant. Before getting separated, they gave birth to Siddharth Mallya. Later Mallya married Rekha, his neighbour, who had previously married twice, in Bangalore, India.

Rise to glory

After ascending to his father's company, Vijay Mallya slowly emerged as an unquestionable entity in Indian business. Under the brand name "UB Group" he acquired umpteen number of companies including Berger Paints, Best, Crompton, the Asian Age newspaper and Cine Blitz. The annual turnover of UB Group in the financial year 1998-99 was $11 billion, a figure 65 percent higher than 1983-84.

The fall

The fatal fall of Mallya began in 2005 when he launched Kingfisher airlines. In 2012, it has been learned that the airline company has never made a profit in its seven years operation. When Mallya approached banks for loans in 2010, there were many differences of opinion among senior bankers in SBI, and other banks in the consortium, on why should they lend money to an airline group which continuously fails to make the profit. However, the major decision was to take the risk again and to lend money to Mallya.

In March 2012, Kingfisher stopped its operations in the international sky. Employees of Kingfisher airlines too started protesting against the company complaining non-payment of salary. In October 2012, Kingfisher airlines flapped its wings forever, and since then, it has not been seen, flying in the skies.

As per statistics, Kingfisher's accumulated loss as of March 2013 is a staggering 16,023 crore. Mallya tried his best to revive Kingfisher airlines by submitting various action plans to the aviation regulator, but none of them worked out.

As Banks started smelling panic, several cases were lodged against Mallya with charges of money laundering, cheating, and misappropriation. A Hyderabad Court issued an arrest warrant on Mallya on March 13, 2016, but before that, he fled to his London Estate, which is out of India's jurisdiction.

The current state

After getting bail from the Westminster magistrates' court on October 03, 2017, Mallya told PTI outside the courtroom that he had done nothing wrong and called all the allegations against him as fabricated.

"I deny all allegations that have been made and I will continue to deny them. I have not eluded any court. If it is my lawful duty to be here, I'm happy to be here. I have given enough evidence to prove my case," said Mallya.