Pressure on India's Kingfisher baron cranked up, trademarks seized

Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:48am EST
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By Devidutta Tripathy

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A group of Indian banks, seeking to recover more than $1 billion in loans from Kingfisher Airlines has taken possession of nine trademarks related to the defunct carrier as the mystery over the whereabouts of its chief, Vijay Mallya, deepens.

Mallya, who built his fortune with Kingfisher Beer and is a guarantor to the debt, left the country last week, a lawyer for the lenders told the Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday. The banks have asked the court to demand his return and to impound his passport.

The latest twist in Mallya's fortunes come as authorities are looking to make good on a pledge to clean up bank balance sheets, with the industry saddled by an estimated $120 billion in bad and troubled loans.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament on Thursday that the lenders will take every possible action to recover the debt from Mallya and other defaulters.

"As far as the government is concerned, the clear instructions are that the banks must go all out to take every possible action," he said, adding that there were some cases of "wilful default even bordering (on) fraud".

Kingfisher stopped flying in October 2012, leaving creditors, suppliers and employees unpaid. It owed banks 90.91 billion rupees ($1.4 billion) at the end of November, Jaitley said.

Indian media believe that Mallya is in Britain and have reported that he could be staying in a luxury residence in Hertfordshire, north of London.

A spokesman for UB Group, Mallya's conglomerate, declined to comment on his whereabouts and the trademark seizure.   Continued...

Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya speaks to the media during a news conference in Mumbai November 15, 2011. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash