India's Supreme Court has been told that heavily indebted businessman and MP Vijay Mallya has fled the country. However, "India's Richard Branson" has slammed the media coverage, insisting that he "did not flee from India".
The news of Mallya leaving the country emerged as banks across the country had been attempting to recover more than $1bn (£700m, €897m) in unpaid loans from him. The banks had urged the Supreme Court to prevent the businessman from leaving the country, however, they then heard that he had already left on 2 March.
On 11 March, Mallya, 60, broke his silence and responded to the media coverage via a series of tweets on his profile. The former United Spirit's chairman had sparked uproar one day earlier, with thousands of Indians questioning how he was allowed to leave the country so easily while in debt.
Mallya hit back at the media, saying: "I am an international businessman. I travel frequently. I did not flee from India and neither am I an absconder. Rubbish. As an Indian MP I fully respect and will comply with the law of the land. Our judicial system is sound and respected. But no trial by media."
He also penned an angry tweet towards Indian media group Times Now, accusing it of "libel, deceit, slander and absolutely sensational lies". His tweet also included a personal attack against the editor, Arnab Goswami, saying that he should be "in prison clothes and eat prison food".
Responding to Mallya's tweets, Times Now's political editor Navika Kumar slammed "India's Richard Branson" for "go[ing] on the offensive]" and not responding to the "facts that have been raised on Times Now". Times Now journalists questioned how the drinks tycoon would repay his debt from his "undisclosed location".
In his tweets, Mallya also reminded Indian media about everything he had done for it: "Let media bosses not forget help, favours, accommodation that I have provided over several years which are documented. Now lies to gain TRP? Once a media witch hunt starts it escalates into a ranging fire where truth and facts are burnt to ashes."
Mallya also slammed media reports that allegedly said he should declare his assets. He tweeted: "Does that mean that banks did not know my assets or look at my Parliamentary disclosures?"
On 10 March the Hashtag "BJP Helped Mallya Flee" was trending nationwide in India as thousands questioned how he slipped out of the country. 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.