India

India suspends drinks tycoon Vijay Mallya's passport

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya waves in the paddock during the third practice session of the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida Image copyright Reuters

Drinks tycoon Vijay Mallya's diplomatic passport has been suspended by the Indian government after he failed to appear before an inquiry committee.

Mr Mallya failed to appear three times before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating money laundering charges against him.

Media reports say the business tycoon is currently living in London.

He is said to have some $1.4bn (£1bn) of unpaid debts after his Kingfisher airline collapsed in 2013.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said Mr Mallya's passport had been suspended for four weeks with immediate effect at the request of the ED.

It added that the businessman had been given a week to justify why his passport should not be impounded.

"If he fails to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that he has no response to offer and the [ministry] will go ahead with the revocation," it said.

A revocation of his diplomatic passport would also affect his regular international travel documents, India's PTI news agency reports.

This, it says, could pave the way for his deportation from the UK.

Mr Mallya has denied media reports that he has fled the country.

Earlier, he was blocked from receiving $75m severance pay from UK drinks giant Diageo.

The heavily indebted businessman was to receive the money after being ousted from the firm in February.

But a consortium of banks and creditors had demanded the money should be used to settle some of Mr Mallya's outstanding debt to them.

They had also sought his arrest and asked for his passport to be impounded after he said he wanted to move to the UK to be closer to his children.

The flamboyant businessman, who is a household name in India, sold a large chunk of United Spirits, which he inherited from his father, to Diageo in April 2014.

Mr Mallya, once dubbed by Indian media as India's Richard Branson and the King of Good Times for his lavish lifestyle, also owns a stake in the Formula One team Force India.

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