Vijay Mallya
Vijay Mallya has reportedly fled the country as a number of banks approach the Supreme Court over the tycoon's debtsCARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

On 9 March India's Supreme Court heard that heavily indebted Vijay Mallya had fled the country. The news broke as banks across the country had been attempting to recover more than $1bn (£700,000 €897,000) in unpaid loans from the drinks tycoon.

A group of mostly state-run banks had asked the Supreme Court to prevent the businessman from leaving the country. However, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said that the 60-year-old had already left India on 2 March.

According to AFP news agency, Rohatgi told the Supreme Court: "Agencies and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) have told me he left the country on the second of March. Please ask Mr. Mallya to come back and appear in the Supreme Court and disclose all his assets."

The Supreme Court has said that it would seek a response from the businessman regarding repayment of the loans. It is believed that Mallya is now in the UK, after announcing in February that he planned to move there to be closer to his children.

Who is Vijay Mallya?

Vijay Mallya was once known as "India's Richard Branson". In 1983, at the age of 28, Mallya was appointed as Chairman of the United Breweries Group. He inherited the drinks company from his father after he passed away.

United's Kingfisher beer accounts for more than 50% of the Indian beer market and is available in a number of countries outside India. In 2012 Mallya handed over management to spirits company Diageo while maintaining stakes in the business as Chairman of the Indian arm.

In 2005 the business tycoon established Kingfisher Airlines, giving himself the title of the 'King of Good Times' at its peak. However, his fortunes came tumbling down in 2012 when the airline was grounded. Its collapse left thousands of staff losing their jobs and saddled Mallya with debts.

Mallya also co-owns Formula One team Sahara Force India.

What is the latest controversy about?

On 7 March an Indian tribunal ordered Diageo to withhold funds that they were due to transfer to Mallya. The $75m, (£52.65m) payment was compensation for the Indian tycoon to step down from his position as Chairman of United Spirits.

Diageo had agreed to pay Mallya $40m upfront and $35m over a five-year-period. He was asked to relinquish his position in the world's largest spirits company following revelations that United Spirits' funds had been "improperly advanced" from the company to other concerns owned by Mallya, including Kingfisher Airlines.

The group of banks awaiting repayments from Mallya urged the Indian tribunal to ensure that the Diageo compensation be used to settle the tycoon's debts to them. Banks and creditors have also called for his arrest and for his passport to be seized.

What is India saying about his disappearance from the country?

The hashtag 'BJP Helped Mallya Flee' was trending nationwide on 10 March, with thousands questioning how the indebted Mallya was able to slip out of the country so easily. Their anger was sparked after the CBI announced that they had put a "look out circular" against Mallya, which should have prevented him from passing through immigration.

The hashtag sentiments were echoed among Indian politicians, with opposition leader Rahul Gandhi lashing out at the way the government had handled the situation. He accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley of failing to answer crucial questions in relation to the incident.

According to the Hindu, Congress Party vice-president, Gandhi, said outside Parliament: "We simply asked that someone who stole Rs 9,000 crore from the country, how did he run away from the country. How did you allow him to escape? This is the simple question and we neither got a reply to this from Modi ji, nor from Jaitley ji. The question is why did your government allow him to run away from the country?"