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India's bid to bring home tycoon Mallya rebuffed; to keep trying

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India has failed in its initial attempt to secure the return of debt-strapped tycoon Vijay Mallya from Britain but New Delhi said on Wednesday it would continue to seek his repatriation to face his creditors.

[NEW DELHI] India has failed in its initial attempt to secure the return of debt-strapped tycoon Vijay Mallya from Britain but New Delhi said on Wednesday it would continue to seek his repatriation to face his creditors.

Mr Mallya flew to London two months ago, under pressure from bankers seeking to recover about US$1.4 billion owed by his collapsed Kingfisher Airlines. He has since said he is living in "forced exile".

India, which has revoked Mr Mallya's diplomatic passport, requested on April 28 he be deported but now acknowledges there is no immediate prospect this will happen because Mr Mallya has the right to remain in Britain.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said the British government had told India that Mr Mallya does not require a valid passport as long as it was valid when his leave to remain in the country was granted.

"At the same time the UK acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations and is keen to assist Government of India (GoI)," Mr Swarup said in a statement to Reuters.

"They have asked GoI to consider requesting mutual legal assistance or extradition." The 60-year-old Mr Mallya, a Formula 1 boss known as the "King of Good Times" for his party lifestyle, is the subject of a non-bailable warrant issued by a special judge in Mumbai.

India's Enforcement Directorate, a government agency set up to fight financial crime, has accused Mr Mallya's UB Group of using 4.3 billion rupees (S$88.28 million) of bank loans to Kingfisher to buy property overseas.

Creditors, led by State Bank of India, have rejected an offer of partial repayment by Mr Mallya, who had given a personal guarantee for the Kingfisher loan.

They have demanded that the former billionaire attend a hearing in India's Supreme Court.

Mr Mallya has denied wrongdoing, calling the charges against him "preposterous". He has also offered a settlement to his creditors that they have so far refused to consider. No comment was immediately available from a Kingfisher spokesman.

REUTERS