Hopes of a swift end to the long-running ordeal suffered by members serving on the superyacht Indian Empress have been dashed after a court in Malta rejected a request from a bidder for the vessel to have more time to pay the auction price.
The 95m superyacht was sold for €43.5m in a court-ordered auction at the end of June, and the buyer – reportedly from Iran – had applied for a 15-day extension to the payment deadline which originally elapsed on 5 July.
Nautilus International had agreed to an original application to extend the deadline, on the basis that this offered the best hope of securing the remaining €234,129 wages owed to the crew since Indian Empress was abandoned last year.
Now the Union 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 the Indian Empress, although only three actually made bids during the original auction.
Nautilus strategic organiser Danny McGowan commented: ‘It’s interesting to see that the judge has declined the application for an extension to the deadline. 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.
Motor Yacht Indian Empress - Wikimedia Commons
‘We hope that the courts in Malta will be able to arrange a new judicial auction quickly, and that any other bidders are in a position to deposit the sums with the court without delay,’ he added. ‘Our members have waited for long enough already.’
The Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, who was reported to be the owner of Indian Empress, has claimed the vessel is not his. Mr Mallya – who is facing extradition from the UK to face fraud charges in India – told Reuters: ‘I have not owned the Indian Empress boat for more than seven years now.’ It had belonged to ‘a Middle Eastern gentleman’ whose name he would not disclose, he told the news agency.
‘Nautilus is keen to understand why Vijay Mallya has taken so long to claim he has not been the owner of the vessel since 2011,’ Mr McGowan said. ‘If that’s the case, why did the wages stop being paid around the time of his assets being frozen?’