It’s understood that 95-metre (312-foot) superyacht Indian Empress will be put up for auction for a second time this year after the winning bidder of the first auction was refused an extension to the lapsed payment deadline.
The original winning bidder, believed to be an Iranian national, was unable to pay the agreed sum of €45.3 million to Maltese courts by 5th July. They cited “transaction issues” as the reason, and requested a 15-day extension to the deadline so that they could pay the sum.
Indian Empress was ordered for sale by the Civil Court (first hall) of Malta in May, on the application of Melita Power Diesel. The Oceanco superyacht was sold at auction in June for €45.3 million, some €35 million below her most recent €80 million valuation (dated March).
Previous owner Vijay Vittal Mallya, a business magnate, former politician and Formula One boss, was arrested in London in October 2017 at the request of the Indian government, which requested his extradition to stand trial over an alleged debt of more than ₹90 billion (Indian rupees; approximately €1.13 billion).
Indian Empress was left abandoned after Mallya’s arrest, leaving the 40-plus-strong crew aboard the superyacht with months of unpaid wages totalling in excess of €860,000. Maritime workers union Nautilus International has confirmed it is hoping to use the funds raised from the sale of the vessel to pay these outstanding wages.
Despite all parties – including Nautilus – agreeing on the new date, the courts have denied the original winning bidder’s request for an extension.
The courts will reportedly now hold a second auction at an unspecified date in the future. At the first auction bidding began at €25 million, with six registered bidders confirmed to have attended.
In related developments, Mallya has now claimed he has not owned Indian Empress since 2011.
“I have not owned the Indian Empress boat for more than seven years now,” he told Reuters. Mallya added that she belonged to “a Middle Eastern gentleman”, who he would not identify, and that a deal had been struck which allowed the disgraced tycoon to use Indian Empress for one month each year.
Danny McGowan, strategic organiser at Nautilus, has questioned this latest move from Mallya. “Nautilus is keen to understand why Vijay Mallya has taken so long to claim he has not been the owner of the vessel since 2011,” he said. “If that’s the case, why did the wages stop being paid around the time of his assets being frozen?”