The 95-meter M/Y Indian
Empress was impounded in Malta on Tuesday, March 6, after its owner, Vijay
Mallya, failed to pay crew more than $1 million in wages.
More than 40 crew have gone unpaid since September, when
Mallya abandoned the vessel, and are owed anywhere between $6,250 to more than
$92,000, according to a
press release by maritime professionals union Nautilus International. Around
this time, Mallya was reportedly arrested in London over allegations that he
supported the Force India Formula One team he co-owns with money-laundered
So far, Nautilus International has secured a milestone
payment of four month’s unpaid compensation totaling more than $615,000 for its
members by using the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 provisions. They are
currently working to recover an additional $330,000 on behalf of Nautilus
members by enforcing a maritime lien on the arrested superyacht for outstanding
wages and other costs over and above the amounts covered by the MLC. The
Guardian reports that non-union crewmembers are owed hundreds of thousands
“Our members on board gave their employer and the shipowner
multiple opportunities to pay monthly wages, displaying a loyalty and restraint
greater than many would show in such situations,” says Danny McGowan, the
union’s strategic organizer, in the press release. “These opportunities were
regularly ignored by the owner, leaving us with no option but to take the case
to the courts.”
Nautilus’s actions have achieved a first for the superyacht
industry — enforcing the financial security provisions of the Maritime Labor
“Our ability to enforce [this] shows the vital importance of
the international measure and ‘safety net’ amendments that were introduced to
protect crew members,” added Charles Boyle, Nautilus International’s director
of legal services, in the press release.
Mallya is reportedly out on bail and living in a
multi-million pound mansion in Britain pending extradition proceedings
initiated by India. According to Reuters,
his defense team claims he’s being used as a scapegoat by Indian politicians
to deflect public anger at bad debts by state-owned banks.
According to the Times of Malta, M/Y Indian Empress has now been ordered to pay more than €68,000 to two marine service agencies. Malta’s The First Hall of the Civil Court has reportedly upheld the claims of Agence Maritime Tropezienne (€25,829) and Luise Associates Riviera & Co. S.r.l. (€42,502) relative to services rendered to Indian Empress. "The yacht’s legal representatives have admitted the applicants’ claims," the Times reports.
Currently, the vessel is facing a maritime lien over a million-dollar unpaid wage bill and a €651,000 unpaid fuel bill. The former owner, ex-politician Vijay Mallya — who was also a co-owner of the Force India Formula One team — is still in the UK pending an extradition request attempting to force him to return to India so he can face charges for his financial crimes, which include money laundering and fraud.
The ongoing saga of 95-meter M/Y Indian Empress has concluded. The vessel was finally sold in Malta by court auction June 28 for €43.5 million, Malta Today reports. The winning bidder has not been identified.
The vessel was originally impounded in Malta on March 6 after owner Vijay Mallya failed to pay crew wages totaling more than $1 million. According to Boat International, 13 creditors were also owed money.
While Nautilus International managed to secure four month’s unpaid compensation totaling more than $615,000 for the crew a few months ago, the crew and creditors are still owed. “The funds from the sale must be deposited with the court within seven days of the sale,” says Danny McGowan, Strategic Organiser with Nautilus International. “After that point, the court will arrange for the process of distributing funds amongst those who are owed money. There is a process where they assess the ‘priority’ of the claims and distribute them in order. Knowing the figure that the vessel sold for, it appears that all creditors will receive their dues in this case.” Good news, finally.
It’s not quite over yet. The winning bidder in the Indian Empress court auction on June 28 applied for a 15-day extension to the payment deadline, which was originally July 5. But a court in Malta rejected the request for additional time to pay the auction price of €43.5 million.
Nautilus International agreed to the application to extend the deadline, on the basis that this was the best hope of securing the remaining €234,129 wages owed to the crew since the vessel was abandoned last year, according to a press release by Nautilus International.
“It’s interesting to see that the judge has declined the application for an extension to the deadline,” says Danny McGowan, strategic organizer at Nautilus International. “We’re pleased to see the law being applied so strictly in this case, as it sends a strong message to those purchasing the vessel that yacht ownership is something that needs to be taken seriously.”
Now, a second judicial auction must take place, and Nautilus International is waiting for an application to be made asking the court to appoint a new auction date. There were at least six registered bidders for Indian Empress, but only three made bids during the original auction.
The vessel’s owner Vijay Mallya claimed the yacht wasn’t his problem and told Reuters that he had not owned Indian Empress for more than seven years. The vessel belonged to “a Middle Eastern gentleman,” whose name he wouldn’t disclose, and Mallya had made a deal that gave him use of the vessel for one month a year.
The Maltese court has set a date for the second auction of Indian Empress on September 19, according to Boat International. Interested parties will be required to pay a €1 million deposit 48 hours before the auction date.
The winning bidder of the June 28 auction — Crediyacht, which was reportedly representing an Iranian buyer — has been banned from re-bidding.