Banks battle Vijay Mallya over superyachts, cars, artwork
NEW DELHI: First, business tycoon Vijay Mallya faced losing his "palatial" London home, with UBS Group AG saying it wanted to foreclose. Then, a judge said he should be extradited to India. Now, banks are eyeing two superyachts and a collection of valuable cars that they believe he may own.
A group of Indian banks –which are trying to collect more than a billion pounds ($1.3 billion) in debt from Mallya –want documents that would shed light on the "true ownership" of assets including yachts, cars and paintings, according to their court filings for a hearing Friday in London.
Mallya says the items are held by trusts that he has no control of, according to the banks' filings. The 63-year-old wasn't represented at the hearing and didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment. He's still in the UK and is waiting for the British government to make a final decision on his extradition.
The superyachts are the 95-meter (312-foot) Indian Empress and the 50-meter Force India. Force India is impounded in Southampton, southern England, and Indian Empress was sold by a Maltese court in September for 35 million euros ($40 million), which is being held by the court. According to court documents, Force India is owned by a Maltese company and the Indian Empress was owned by an Isle of Man company until its sale.
On board the Indian Empress were an "Elton John piano and high value artwork" and the banks wanted to know whether these had been removed before it was sold, they said in their filings. They didn't provide details of the piano's links to the singer.
There are "many very valuable assets" that are held through "a complex ownership structure comprising offshore companies and discretionary trusts," the banks said.
The trusts are said to be operated for the benefit of Mallya's family, including his three children and his mother, the banks' filings said. Though Mallya says he has no interest in those trusts and assets, the banks said they "do not believe him" and argue that he does, or that he "has only relatively recently divested himself of his interests to make himself judgment-proof."
Judge Christopher Hancock adjourned the hearing on Friday, saying the case would be considered at a later date.
Enforcement officers found 27 cars –including a Mini Moke, a version of the iconic 1960s model that features a stripped-back body shell and resembles a golf buggy –at a property linked to Mallya in July and the banks also want more details about these, they said, noting that Mallya is "known as having a keen interest in cars."
Mallya –a former MP–is fighting multiple lawsuits after defaulting on bank loans. The source of Mallya's legal problems is about $1.3 billion in loans that he took out in India for the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, which he founded in 2005.
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