Indian tycoon refutes charges as extradition trial begins in UK court


LONDON — Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya insisted on Monday that he was innocent of money-laundering accusations after an evacuation of the court building during a London hearing put him the in the center of a media scrum.

The Westminster Magistrates Court session was interrupted briefly by a fire alarm, forcing Mallya outside amid the waiting media. Television crews from India pursued Mallya, while he tried to avoid them.

“The allegations are baseless, unfounded, deliberate and you will see our submissions in court,” he said.

But the media kept pursuing 61-year-old businessman and former politician, circling him on the sidewalk.

“The answer will be given to the judge — you think you are going to conduct a trial by media?” he asked.

India is seeking Mallya’s extradition to answer the allegations related to the collapse of several of his businesses.

The case is expected to take roughly eight days and lead to a verdict on whether he will be sent back to India or allowed to remain in Britain.

Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005 and the carrier set new standards for quality and service, forcing competing airlines to improve. But it ran into trouble as it expanded. The Indian government suspended the airline’s license in 2012 after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.

That triggered the collapse of several more of Mallya’s businesses. He left India last year after a group of banks demanded he pay back more than $1 billion in loans extended to his airline.

He has been living in Britain since March 2016 and has refused to return to India to face trial in the Kingfisher Airlines case. India canceled his passport and began an extradition process.

In May, India’s Supreme Court ruled Mallya had disobeyed its order barring him from transferring $40 million to his children.

Mallya has argued that Britain has long been a second home for him.

India’s government this month rejected Mallya’s argument that he wouldn’t be safe in an Indian jail if he was sent back, and was planning to tell that to the London court, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. — AP