Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya appeared in a London court on Monday to start his fight against extradition to his homeland, where he is accused of fraud.
Mallya, chairman of the UB Group drinks conglomerate and chief executive of the Force India Formula One team, appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court, after facing a media scrum outside.
He left India in March 2016 owing more than $1 billion after defaulting on loan payments to state-owned banks and allegedly misusing the funds.
The loans from the state-owned IDBI bank were intended to bail out his failed carrier Kingfisher Airlines.
The opening of the case was delayed by an hour due to a fire alert.
The court complex was evacuated, leaving Mallya wandering around outside, surrounded by a rolling media scrum at every turn.
Wearing a blue pinstripe suit and smoking a cigar, he declined to answer persistent questions but said: ‘The allegations are baseless, unfounded, deliberate and you will see our submissions in court.’
The case is being heard by England's Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who handles the most complex extradition cases.
‘The focus of our case is on his conduct, how he misused the banks,’ said lawyer Mark Summers, representing the Indian authorities as he began setting out their case in the hearings, which are expected to last for at least eight days.
He told the court that Kingfisher Airlines had been incurring losses and was forced to defer payments to its creditors. It sought loans in October 2009 and hoped to emerge from the global financial crisis as a profitable venture.
‘This was an airline in trouble at this stage, which is why it was seeking financial assistance from a large number of banks,’ for large amounts of money, said Summers.
Mallya's lawyers were expected to begin their defence on Tuesday, before witnesses give evidence to the court.
Known for his lavish lifestyle, Mallya made Kingfisher beer a global brand.
He stepped down as the director of the Indian Premier League cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.
His financial dealings are being investigated by the federal Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, a financial crimes agency.
Mallya was once known as the ‘King of Good Times’ but dropped off India's most wealthy list in 2014, engulfed by Kingfisher Airlines' massive debts.
He has been living in a sprawling $15 million (13 million euro) mansion in southeast England but has denied absconding.
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