June 9, 2017 / 7:03 PM / 3 months ago

Mallya dismisses speculation of Force India sale

FILE PHOTO: Formula One - F1 - United States Grand Prix 2015 - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America - 23/10/15. Force India team owner Dr. Vijay Mallya during a press conference. Action Images / Hoch Zwei/Livepic/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - Troubled Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya has dismissed speculation of a possible sale of his team to Australian David Brabham or Formula One’s former commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

In an interview with talkSPORT radio broadcast on Friday, the flamboyant liquor and aviation tycoon said he remained in for the long haul despite his legal problems with the Indian government.

“There have been no conversations with Brabham, I haven’t even met them,” he said.

“Bernie and me are good friends, will always continue to be good friends and there is absolutely no talk whatsoever on a sale of this team.”

Ecclestone owned the now-defunct Brabham team, founded by Australia’s late triple world champion Jack Brabham, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Britain’s Autocar magazine reported last month that the champion’s son David, an ex-Formula One driver, could buy Force India as part of a project to bring Brabham back to the sport for the first time since 1992.

Other reports suggested that 86-year-old billionaire Ecclestone was involved in the bid.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One - F1 - Test session - Barcelona-Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain - 9/3/17. Force India's Esteban Ocon in action. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Mallya, being pursued by Indian authorities over unpaid loans tied to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, was arrested in London in April and is due in court next week for an extradition hearing.

India had asked Britain to extradite Mallya to face trial after he fled there last March following a move by banks to recover about $1.4 billion that Indian authorities say Kingfisher owes.

Mallya, who has not left the country in more than a year and was able to attend only the British Grand Prix last season, has repeatedly dismissed the charges against him and defended himself in messages on Twitter.

“These extradition proceedings are based on various allegations made by the government of India and now the matter (is) before a UK judge, I am not going to comment further,” he told talkSPORT.

”As far as the ownership of Force India is concerned, whether I continue to live in the UK or am sent back to India, the ownership structure of the team does not change at all. 

“These extradition proceedings have nothing to do with either the ownership or the management of the team.”

Mercedes-powered Force India are currently fourth in the championship after six of 20 races.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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