HYDERABAD, India // An Indian court filed an arrest warrant yesterday for Vijay Mallya, a Formula One tycoon nicknamed the "King of Good Times", over allegations that cheques written by his troubled airline had bounced.
The non-bailable warrant was issued in the local sessions court in Hyderabad against Mr Mallya and four other executives in a dramatic escalation of the crisis facing his cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines.
Mr Mallya's whereabouts were not immediately known although a member of his entourage said he was out of the country.
The warrant was triggered after a complaint was lodged before the court by GHIAL, the operator of Hyderabad airport over non-payment of bills.
"The cases were listed today for the airline to appear in the court," said a GHIAL spokesman, confirming court reports.
"Since they failed to appear before the magistrate, the court has ordered issuance of NBW (non-bailable warrants) against Kingfisher Airlines (KFA), Vijay Mallya and four other KFA officials," the spokesman added in a statement.
Kingfisher's lawyers had urged the court not to issue the warrants but their request was dismissed by Judge Kedara Chary, said a report from inside the courtroom by the Press Trust of Indian news agency.
The cheques for 105 million rupees (Dh6.6 million) were to settle user fees at the airport for services such as the parking of jets and landing charges.
The debt-ridden airline, named after Mallya's biggest beer brand, owes billions of dollars in backdated taxes, airport fees and to staff who have not been paid since April.
After grounding its fleet for the last two weeks, it faces the prospect of having its licence cancelled.
Negotiations on persuading staff to return to work foundered once again on Friday and the fleet will therefore remain grounded until at least October 20, according to the Press Trust of India.
Last week, the wife of an airline technician committed suicide reportedly because of the financial stress caused by her husband's unpaid wages, leading to renewed scrutiny of Mallya's lavish lifestyle.