NEW DELHI (AP) India’s government has been accused of “criminal conspiracy” for allowing Formula One team boss and flamboyant businessman Vijay Mallya to leave the country while being pursued over massive debts.
Mallya, who is also a member of the upper house of India’s parliament, left India on March 2 and is thought to be in England, Attorney-General Mukul Rohtagi told the country’s top court this week.
The opposition Congress Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday accused the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “a criminal conspiracy in letting Mallya fly out of the country.”
India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley defended Mallya’s exit, saying the banks had not initiated the legal process to prevent him from leaving the country by the time he boarded a flight out of India.
Once hailed as an Indian version of Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline and F1 team Force India, Mallya is now being chased by the banks, regulators and the judiciary for 90 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) he owes to lenders.
Even after India’s state-run State Bank of India declared him a “wilful defaulter”, Mallya hosted a big bash to celebrate his 60th birthday in the beach resort town of Goa last December. It was attended by more than 200 people, featuring a fireworks display and performance by Spanish pop star Enrique Iglesias.
His downfall was triggered by the failure of Kingfisher Airlines, which he launched in 2005. The Indian government in 2012 suspended the license of the airline after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.
Aviation experts put Kingfisher’s outstanding debt at $2.5 billion.
Mallya ceded management control of his flagship United Spirits Limited to global spirits company Diageo. It was Diageo’s agreement last month to pay $75 million in exchange for resigning as chairman of USL which prompted the latest legal push by competing creditors, who say they should have the first claim on that money.
Mallya is famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models, Bollywood movie stars and cricket players.
He owns other businesses in industries ranging from chemicals to information technology. He also owns the Royal Challengers, a team in the lucrative India Premier League cricket competition.
Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.
“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.
“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”
Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.
The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.
After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”
Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.
Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.
“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.
“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.
“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”