1492577238749 - Arrested Indian businessman received PM honour from John Key in 2011

Arrested Indian businessman received PM honour from John Key in 2011

A former Indian billionaire arrested in London over fraud accusations was awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship by former prime minister John Key in 2011.

Vijay Mallya, a multimillionaire who co-owns the Force India Formula One team, was arrested in London overnight on behalf of Indian authorities investigating allegations of fraud, the Guardian reported.

Scotland Yard said the 61-year-old, who referred to himself as the “King of Good Times”, was arrested on an extradition warrant on Tuesday.

The Guardian reported Mallya later appeared before Westminster magistrates court where he was bailed for an extradition hearing next month.

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Indian authorities said Mallya fled to the United Kingdom last year in order to avoid arrest over alleged fraud surrounding the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines in 2012.

Mallya was once a billionaire who made most of his money from Kingfisher beer and spirits, but owed an estimated US$2 billion (NZ$2.8b) to state-owned banks in India.

Mallya has denied the fraud allegations.

The Indian businessman was in 2011 awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship by Key.

The fellowship was described as a tribute to the special contribution made by Sir Edmund Hillary to New Zealand’s bilateral relationships with India and Nepal.

Key said at the time Mallya was an outstanding businessman with a great affection for New Zealand.

“He is a worthy recipient of the fellowship and will be a great asset in strengthening the longstanding and friendly ties between the two countries.

“I will be delighted to welcome Vijay Mallya to New Zealand as the Prime Minister’s fellow.”

Mallya was, however, unable to take up the fellowship.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Bill English said he would not comment as the matter was before the British courts.

In 2011, Mallya shared a luxury dinner with then-Christchurch mayor Bob Parker before leaving the city in his private jet.

He made a fleeting visit to Christchurch to retrieve three bottles of whisky that British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton took to Antarctica in 1907.

They were found in ice under the floorboards of Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island near McMurdo Sound in 2007.

Mallya owns the company that produced the whisky more than a century ago, and planned to personally take the rare bottles back to Scotland.