UK court permits searches at Vijay Mallya’s house in boost for banks’ bid to recover debt
A UK court has allowed searches and seizure of goods at controversial businessman Vijay Mallya’s house near London, two months after Indian banks won a landmark case that is expected to enable them to enforce an Indian Debt Recovery Tribunal ruling against his assets in England and Wales.
Legal experts said the June 26 order by Justice Bryan of the business and property court of England’s High Court of Justice does not have the effect of triggering any enforcement.
“The order grants permission, should any action need to be taken, but it is not an instruction to act. It is too soon to speculate as to what enforcement action will be taken,” an expert close to the case said.
The order said the court’s enforcement officer may enter Mallya’s two properties at the same address in Tewin, Hertfordshire, called ‘Ladywalk’ and ‘Bramble Lodge’ “to search for and take control of goods belonging to the First Defendant” (Mallya). It added that the enforcement officer “may use reasonable force to enter the Property if necessary, pursuant to Paragraph 12 of Schedule 12 to the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007”.
On May 8, a UK commercial court had dismissed Mallya’s application to set aside a ruling of India’s Debt Recovery Tribunal and an associated worldwide freezing order against his assets. It marked the first recorded case of a ruling by an India tribunal being registered by the English High Court.
The consortium of 13 Indian banks led by the State Bank of India is seeking to recover £1.145 billion from the liquor tycoon. The case is part of litigation in which they are seeking to recover loans to Kingfisher Airlines Ltd that Mallya guaranteed.
Mallya, who is separately fighting extradition to India on fraud and money laundering charges, on June 26 issued a media statement reiterating his offer to settle with the banks. A final hearing in the extradition case is scheduled for July 31.
He was arrested in London on an extradition warrant in April last year and is out on a £650,000 bail bond. The Enforcement Directorate has approached a special court in Mumbai to declare Mallya a fugitive and he has been summoned to appear by August 31.
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