Vijay Mallya’s Abandoned Superyacht Detained in Malta Over Wage Dispute
Mallya is said to owe over $1 million in wages to the crew members of his superyacht called Indian Empress.
A luxury superyacht worth $93 million owned by Vijay Mallya was seized by authorities in Malta on March 6 over the liquor baron’s failure to pay more than $1 million in wages to the crew, PTI reported. Mallya had reportedly abandoned the 95 meter vessel after his arrest in the United Kingdom on an extradition warrant.
The maritime professionals union in Malta attempted to recover unpaid wages and other costs to the tune of $330,000 on behalf of the crew of the “Indian Empress.” On March 6, port officials boarded the yacht to prevent it from leaving. The detaining of the yacht in Malta is to enforce a “maritime lien,” which gives the crew claim of the superyacht to the value of unpaid wages.
More than 40 crew members, including several British, Indian, and eastern European workers, are said to have not been paid since September.
As per the maritime union Nautilus International, Mallya — who is fighting his extradition from the United Kingdom to India — had “effectively abandoned” the vessel in September last year. The extradition trial he faces in London is related to charges of fraud and money laundering involving his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ default of bank loans worth about Rs. 9,000 crore.
“Our members onboard 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. These opportunities were regularly ignored by the owner, leaving us with no option but to take the case to the courts,” Nautilus International strategic organizer Danny McGowan was quoted as saying by the news agency.
The union added that it had been successful in securing a “milestone” payment for crew members through the insurers with a safety net provision in the international Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Four months of overdue salary to the amount of $615,000 has been recovered.
However, among the 40-member crew and other associated individuals, there are people who are owed amounts between $6,250 and $92,000.
“The superyacht sector is seen as one of glamour and glitz, but the sad reality is that crew members can experience exploitation and abuse and that is why Nautilus has become increasingly involved in such justice cases,” Charles Boyle, Nautilus International’s director of legal services, was quoted as saying by PTI.
The “Indian Empress,” a Isle of Man registered superyacht, can accommodate up to 12 guests in 17 cabins, and has an entire deck dedicated to master suite which has a gym, sauna and steam room, 15-seat cinema and Sir Elton John’s baby grand piano. It was bought by Mallya in 2006. The 62-year-old businessman spent millions refitting it in 2016.
Mallya’s international assets remain frozen or under litigation at the moment. The Indian government’s case for extradition will have a final hearing before Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on March 16. Mallya, who is living in a £11.5m mansion in the Hertfordshire village of Tewin, 32 km north of London, is on a £650,000 bail bond until April 2.