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F1, cricket mogul Mallya arrested on fraud charges

Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya, who has a significant interest in the Formula One motor-racing series and cricket, has sought to play down his arrest by British police today (Tuesday), with the Indian government seeking his extradition back to his home country concerning allegations of fraud.

Mallya, who is the co-owner and team principal of F1 outfit Force India and owner of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, is being pursued by Indian authorities on charges of money laundering and bank demands that he pay back substantial loans granted to his now-defunct airline.

London’s Metropolitan Police today said the 61-year-old was arrested after attending a police station. At a preliminary hearing, Mallya was granted conditional bail and released with the case adjourned until May 17.

The Indian government has hailed Mallya’s arrest, saying it would not spare anyone who indulged in fraudulent behaviour. “Mallya will be brought back to India,” Santosh Gangwar, the Junior Minister for Finance, said, according to the Associated Press news agency. “The government is working toward it. No one will be spared.”

India’s Enforcement Directorate is investigating the drinks baron’s debts totalling 94 billion rupees (€1.33bn/$1.44bn) and asked a New Delhi court last year to demand Mallya’s presence during proceedings. Mallya has been living in the UK since March 2016 and has refused to return to India to face trial.

The collapse of Kingfisher Airlines, which Mallya launched in 2005, subsequently led to the failure of a number of Mallya’s other businesses. The Indian government suspended the airline’s licence in 2012 after it failed to pay pilots and engineers.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation had charged Mallya with cheating and conspiracy for defaulting on a nine billion rupee loan, given in 2009 for usage by the Kingfisher Airlines business.

Writing on social media platform Twitter, Mallya said today: “Usual Indian media hype. Extradition hearing in Court started today as expected.”