Vijay Mallya’s super-yacht “Indian Empress” was impounded by port officials in Malta on Tuesday 6th March. As per reports, the seize is the result of a dispute over the liquor baron’s failure to pay the superyacht’s crew for more than a year. The value of the superyacht is estimated at 93 million USD and it is considered one of the most expensive and luxurious superyachts in the world.
Malta port officials boarded the super-yacht harboured in Malta port and took control of the luxury vessel. The yacht is now prevented from leaving the port. The seizure is the result of legal action taken by the crew.
Over 40 crew members, including several British, Indian and Eastern European workers have not received their payments for over a year since Vijay Mallya abandoned the vessel. Vijay Mallya is now involved in a legal battle over his extradition from the UK to India over loan fraud. According to reports, some of the crew, who are still stationed inside the yacht, have not received any payments since September 2017 and several attempts by them to obtain wages from the formula 1 tycoon and his companies have failed.
Danny McGowan, strategic organiser of the maritime union Nautilus International, has stated that after repeated attempts to receive the amount owed, the crew members manage to obtain 615,000 USD from the insurers of the vessel under the International Maritime Convention, but still a large amount is yet to be paid and maritime laws now give them the claim over the vessel to the value of unpaid wages. He also added that crew members who are not registered members of the union are also owed several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid wages. According to the maritime union, this is the first time a superyacht has been impounded in such a way.
Charles Boyle, the legal director of Nautilus International, stated that the superyacht sector is popular for its glamour and aristocracy, but the sad reality is that crew members often experience exploitation and abuse and that is why Nautilus has become increasingly involved undertaking the legal route when such incidents happen.
The ‘Indian Empress’ super-yacht is 95 meters long and contains a total of 16 state-suites for special guests. It also features a 15 seater cinema and a gym, sauna and even rumoured to have two Mercedez cars on board. The vessel is adorned with several vintage paintings including originals of Renoir and Chagall. Sir Elton John’s personal grand piano is one of its prized decors. The superyacht was reportedly originally owned by the Prime Minister of Qatar when its name was Al Mirqab. Vijay Mallya had bought it in 2006 and named it ‘Indian Empress’. The superyacht is registered in the Isle of Man.
Vijay Mallya has been absconding from India after it was disclosed that his company Kingfisher Airlines owes over 9000 crores to a consortium of Indian banks. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has submitted an extradition request to the UK government last year. He is wanted in India by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He owns numerous ultra-luxury properties around the world.