Meet the beer baron fighting extradition to India

vijay mallya trial dec 4

Vijay Mallya was once known as the "King of Good Times" as much for his liquor fortune as for his billionaire lifestyle. Now he's fighting to avoid being extradited from the U.K. to India where he's wanted for alleged fraud.

Mallya was arrested twice this year by British police after Indian authorities charged him with fraud and money laundering. He was released on bail within hours on both occasions.

The tycoon has repeatedly denied the charges, and did so again before his extradition hearing began on Monday.

"I have said repeatedly that the charges are false, fabricated and baseless," Mallya told reporters outside London's Westminster Magistrates' Court. "I have nothing to say. The submissions in court will be self-evident," he added.

Mallya took over as chairman of his father's United Breweries Group -- known for India's hugely popular Kingfisher Beer -- in 1983, and eventually poured money into a Formula 1 team and Indian Premier League cricket.

But the case against him is centered around his most infamous business venture -- Kingfisher Airlines, the carrier he founded that went bust five years ago.

He's being pursued by 17 Indian banks, who are trying to recover an estimated $1.3 billion in loans to Kingfisher Airlines. He has been charged by Indian investigators with diverting money from one of those loans into other assets and businesses and misleading his creditors, accusations he denies.

By the time the banks asked India's Supreme Court to stop the liquor baron from leaving the country in March 2016, he had already departed for the U.K. Mallya denied fleeing his debts at the time, referring to allegations that he was absconding as "rubbish."

"I am an international businessman. I travel to and from India frequently," he said in a tweet.

Mallya reiterated the point before his trial on Monday, telling reporters in London that "returning to England, where I have lived since 1992, is not an escape."

vijay mallya trial 2

India revoked Mallya's passport last April, confining him to the U.K. until an extradition agreement is reached.

The magnate has become a poster child for India's struggle to recover unpaid loans. Indian banks are saddled with an estimated $150 billion in bad debt.

Abhishek Dayal, a spokesman for India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), told CNNMoney that a team from the agency is in London for the hearing but declined to provide further details. The CBI is one of the agencies pursuing charges against Mallya.

The hearing is expected to continue for more than a week.

India and the U.K. have had an extradition treaty since 1993, but only one fugitive has been extradited from the U.K. in the past five years.

Mallya's financial and legal troubles saw him drop out of the ranks of India's billionaires in 2012, according to Forbes, which estimated his net worth at $750 million in 2013.

Personal Finance

CNNMoney Sponsors