Force India play down impact of Mallya’s troubles

14 October, 2012

Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner and Richard Branson (GBR). Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday 2 September 2012. BEST IMAGEOct.14 (Reuters) A court warrant in India against billionaire Vijay Mallya over his airline business will have no repercussions for his Force India Formula One team, deputy principal Bob Fernley told Reuters on Sunday.

Indian airport operator GMR Infrastructure said on Friday that a non-bailable warrant had been issued against the flamboyant drinks and aviation mogul and other executives of troubled Kingfisher Airlines after four cheques for some $2 million had bounced.

“I think there’s been a request for warrants, I don’t think they’ve been issued…but I am 100 percent sure they haven’t been served,” said Fernley at the Korean Grand Prix.

“It doesn’t affect the team at all. It has no bearing whatsoever.

“I don’t think it will go anywhere,” he added of the claim. “It is an offence in India to issue a cheque without the funds being there, for sure. There is substance in that, for sure. Why it was done I don’t know. It is so far below Vijay he wouldn’t have a clue what is going on anyway.”

Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines, once India’s second biggest carrier, has never turned a profit since its launch in 2005. It has defaulted on payments to airports, tax authorities and banks and is seven months behind salary payments to staff.

The billionaire bought the British-based Force India team, whose current drivers are Britain’s Paul Di Resta and Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg, at the end of 2007.

The sponsors on the team’s cars are primarily a list of Mallya-owned brands, including Kingfisher Airlines.

Indian business conglomerate Sahara Group, also in the business headlines after being ordered by the Indian Supreme Court in October to refund about $4.6 billion to investors, took a 42.5 percent stake in the team last year.

Fernley pointed out that Force India was a completely separate entity from Kingfisher Airlines and was privately funded.

“For some reason in F1 we are captivated by our own self-importance. In Vijay’s world, the F1 programme is a relatively small entity,” he said.

“I’m saddened by the stories because I think it’s probably political mischief that’s gone on in India…Vijay is obviously a target at the moment.”

Mallya has not been at the last two grands prix, after attending the Singapore Grand Prix last month, but Fernley said the billionaire had never been scheduled to travel to Japan and South Korea.

The deputy was confident that Mallya would be at his home race in Noida, near New Delhi, in two weeks’ time.

Subbed by AJN.


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