It looks like out ‘Top-10 F1 Felons’ list could soon need another update, with prosecutors in the Indian city of Hyderabad issuing an arrest warrant for Force India’s embattled team owner, Vijay Mallya.
Mallya, along with representatives of his debt-riddled Kingfisher Airlines group, had been summoned to appear at the port city’s 13th Metropolitan Sessions Court to answer charges relating to a case filed by GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd, the parent company of the town’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport.
The airport has been pursuing unpaid debts from the airline – believed to be in the region of more than $2 million – after the cheques it paid for airport user fees bounced.
“Since they failed to appear before the magistrate, the court has ordered issuance of NBW (non-bailable warrants) against Kingfisher Airlines (KFA), Vijay Mallya and four other KFA officials,” a spokesperson for the complainant told the Associated Free Press today.
Mallya’s arrest warrant – which comes less than two weeks out from his team’s ‘home’ race at New Delhi – is the latest in a string of financial setbacks for the Indian billionaire, whose low-cost airline has failed to turn a cent of profit since its 2005 launch.
With debts of over $1.4 billion dollars, Mallya has been forced to ground the airline’s ever-dwindling fleet of planes after the umpteenth strike by the airline’s employees, who haven’t received wages since February.
The airline’s financial plight is putting massive strain on Mallya’s other companies in his business empire – most notably his United Breweries liquor group – and it remains to be seen what steps he might be forced to pursue in order to keep one of more of these ventures afloat.
It certainly leaves the future of his F1 team – which has served as a high-speed billboard for his many business interests – in grave doubt, particularly with the team’s co-investor, the Sahara Group, having been hit with its own Indian Supreme Court ruling to pay back $10 billion (yes, billion) in penalties to investors it has not paid back.