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Controversial tycoon Vijay Mallya resigns from Indian parliament

Vijay Mallya, chairman of UB Group.
Mark Thompson | Getty Images
Vijay Mallya, chairman of UB Group.

Vijay Mallya, the controversial tycoon, resigned from India's parliament on Monday, a day before the legislature planned to expel him for failing to repay an estimated $1.4 billion in debts following the 2012 collapse of his Kingfisher Airlines.

In his resignation letter, Mr Mallya declared that the allegations aired by the upper house of parliament's ethics committee last week were "blatantly false and baseless".

But Mr Mallya said that he had little hope of a fair hearing in parliament given the frenzy in India over the airline's unpaid debts and so had decided to step down.

"I do not want my name and reputation to be further dragged in the mud," he wrote. "Since recent events suggest I will not get a fair trial or justice, I am hereby resigning . . . with immediate effect."

The wreckage from the collapse of his once-popular but never-profitable Kingfisher Airlines has cast a shadow over Mr Mallya, one of India's most ebullient entrepreneurs, who dominated the country's beer and spirits markets.

He is locked in a bitter dispute with his bankers, led by State Bank of India, over the validity of personal guarantees he gave for Kingfisher's loans as part of a 2010 debt restructuring.

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He contested the validity of the guarantees in a 2013 lawsuit filed in the Bombay High Court. The lawsuit, which has yet to be decided, claims that the guarantees were extracted under duress and should not be binding.

Over the past month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has turned up the heat on the luxury-loving businessman, presently in the UK, to force him to pay up. Mr Mallya's passport was revoked last month and a court issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to heed a summons from criminal investigators probing how money loaned to the carrier in 2009 was spent.

A parliamentary ethics committee voted unanimously last week to expel Mr Mallya from the legislature, citing his failure to declare Kingfisher's debts in his personal declaration of assets and liabilities, which he was required to file as a member of parliament.

In a letter to the ethics committee sent on Monday, Mr Mallya expressed dismay at the charges and added that he was facing "trial by media and a lynch mob mentality".

He also explained that he excluded the assets from his personal declaration to parliament because he was contesting the validity of the personal guarantees in court.

"I maintain that my declarations are complete and accurate," he wrote. "There is no crystallised liability/debt finally determined by a court of competent jurisdiction to be due from me to the consortium of banks."

Mr Mallya was an independent member of the upper house for a six-year term from 2002. He was re-elected as an independent MP from his home state of Karnataka in 2010 with the support of various parties, including Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata party.

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