London: A consortium of PSU banks led by State Bank of India (SBI) have won their latest legal claim in the UK High Court in seeking to establish the true ownership of the assets they believe are owned by embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
The assets in contention such as two superyachts, a game reserve, numerous undeclared high-value and vintage cars, valuable paintings and a piano previously owned by Elton John are believed to be held by VMDS Trust, associated with Mallya’s family members. Although the trust is named after Mallya’s father Vittal Mallya (VM), Vijay Mallya claims he has no ‘beneficial interest’ in it.
The hearing in the Commercial Court division of the UK High Court was presided by Justice Robin Knowles on Monday. Satisfied by the ruling, Judge Knowles added, “I do take the view that without this disclosure the consequences are highly unsatisfactory for a judgment creditor [Indian banks] and from the vantage point of progressing towards a fair conclusion of the matter and a conclusion that is cost-effective.”
The disclosure of Mallya’s assets would enable the worldwide freezing order and enforcement of the judgement, noted Judge Knowles. The Indian banks are after the 63-year-old former Kingfisher Airlines boss in an attempt to recover the dues under a 1.145 billion pounds worldwide freezing order. The worldwide freezing order was imposed on May 2018 to track down and prevent the dissipation of assets by Mallya.
“All roads lead to VMDS… But the attempts to get fundamental information is quite clearly being obstructed, which supports the assertion that Dr Mallya has a beneficial interest (in the Trust),” barrister Nigel Tozzi told Justice Robin Knowles speaking on behalf of the Indian banks.
He told the court that the “contradictory answers” received by the banks in their queries to the true ownership of assets indicates that Mallya was trying to distance himself from an image of his own creation for the world of being a “fabulously wealthy individual”.
To establish their case, the Indian banks’ counsel referenced a series of declarations made by Mallya before the Supreme Court in India as well as information available in the public domain. Ultimately, the UK judge ruled that the Indian banks’ case outweighed their assertions of confidentiality.
(With inputs from PTI)