Founder of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines offers to pay back some of $1.76 billion debt

Founder of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines offers to pay back some of $1.76 billion debt

Debt-laden Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya has offered to pay back some of the estimated US$1.3 billion (S$1.76 billion) he owes in unpaid loans, lawyers told a New Delhi court Wednesday, in a case that has gripped the country.

The founder of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, who is being chased by a group of mostly state-run banks over the unpaid debts, left India earlier this month.

A lawyer for Kingfisher, C. S. Vaidyanathan, on Wednesday submitted a repayment plan to the Supreme Court proposing to give back 40 billion rupees ($603 million) to banks by September 30.

The Supreme Court has given the banks, led by State Bank of India, a week to respond, with the next hearing set for April 7.

The court also heard that Kingfisher representatives had communicated with the banks via video conference, but lawyers representing the banks said the lenders wished to meet with the embattled businessman in person.

A lawyer for Mallya said he was not in the country and that "in the present ambience (it was) not needed".

The flamboyant entrepreneur, who has not been charged with any crime, stepped down last month as chairman of United Spirits, the Indian arm of Britain's Diageo, following allegations of financial lapses.

His surprise departure has proved an embarrassment for the government, which was forced to admit he had left the country even as it sought permission to impound his passport.

Opposition politicians have demanded to know why the 60-year-old was not arrested before he flew out on March 2.

India's financial crimes agency has also summoned Mallya in connection with an alleged case of loan fraud involving state-run IDBI Bank in Mumbai.

The businessman, who is also a member of the Indian parliament, has denied absconding and has criticised the media for what he has called a "witch hunt".

Mallya was known as the "King of Good Times" before the 2012 collapse of his airline, which left thousands of workers unemployed and millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

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