London: A UK High Court judge has issued an enforcement order in favour of a consortium of 13 Indian banks, seeking to recover funds owed to them by liquor baron Vijay Mallya who is fighting extradition to India on fraud and money laundering charges.
The order grants permission to the UK High Court Enforcement Officer to enter the 62-year-old tycoon’s properties in Hertfordshire near London. The officer and his agents can also enter Mallya’s home in Ladywalk and Bramble Lodge in Tewin. However, it is not an instruction to enter, which means the banks have the option to use the order as one of the means to recover estimated funds of around 1.145 billion pounds.
According to legal experts with knowledge of the case, the latest order is on the granting of permission, should it be required, while the banks consider “all the enforcement options available to them”. The order follows a UK High Court ruling in May, which refused to overturn a worldwide order freezing Mallya’s assets and upheld an Indian court’s ruling that the Indian banks were entitled to recover funds. It marked the first recorded case of a judgment of the Debt Recovery Tribunal in India being registered by the English High Court, setting a legal precedent.
The verdict is a victory for the 13 Indian banks – which include State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Corporation Bank, Federal Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, Punjab & Sind Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of Mysore, UCO Bank, United Bank of India and JM Financial Asset Reconstruction Co. Pvt Ltd – and enables them to enforce the Indian judgment against Mallya’s assets in England and Wales. Mallya has made an application in the Court of Appeal seeking permission to appeal against the order, which remains pending. The Enforcement Officer may use reasonable force to enter the property, if necessary, Thursday’s order states. Mallya’s extradition case comes up in a UK court on 31 July.
Last month, Mallya said in a statement that he had sought approvals from a court in Karnataka to sell seized assets worth Rs. 13,900 crores to repay creditors, including banks. He also released a two-year-old letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he was “making every effort” to settle his dues but he had been made the “Poster Boy” of bank default and a lightning rod for public anger. Meanwhile, the Bangalore police informed a Delhi court that it has identified 159 properties belonging to Mallya, but has not been able to attach any of them as some of them were part of the liquidation proceedings.