London: Fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Tuesday lost a legal battle to hold on to his plush London home after a British court refused to grant him a stay of enforcement in a long-running dispute with Swiss bank UBS.
The 18/19 Cornwall Terrace luxury apartment overlooking Regent’s Park in London, described in court as an “extraordinarily valuable property worth many tens of millions of pounds”, is currently being occupied by Mallya’s 95-year-old mother Lalitha.
Delivering his judgment virtually for the Chancery Division of the High Court, Deputy Master Matthew Marsh concluded there are no grounds for him to grant further time for the Mallya family to repay a 20.4-million-pound loan to UBS – the claimant in the case.
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“The claimant’s position was a reasonable one… further time is not likely to make any material difference,” Deputy Master Marsh ruled.
“I will also add from my review of the correspondence, I can see no basis whatever for the suggestion that has been made that the claimant has misled the first defendant (Vijay Mallya)… in conclusion, I dismiss the first defendant’s application,” he said.
The judge also declined permission to appeal against his order or to grant a temporary stay of enforcement, which means UBS can proceed with the possession process to realise its unpaid dues.
“I will refuse permission to appeal and therefore it follows that I will not be granting a stay,” said Marsh.
Mallya’s barrister, Daniel Margolin QC, indicated that the 65-year-old businessman plans to pursue an appeal before a High Court Chancery Division Judge as it has “serious consequences” for his clients, including Mallya’s elderly mother who currently resides at the address.
Meanwhile, Fenner Moeran QC made it clear that UBS intends to proceed with the enforcement order without delay.
The case relates to a mortgage taken out by Rose Capital Ventures, one of Mallya’s companies, with the former Kingfisher Airlines boss, his mother Lalitha and son Sidhartha Mallya listed as co-defendants with right of occupancy of the property.
In May 2019, Judge Simon Barker had handed down a consent order allowing the family to retain possession with a final deadline of April 30, 2020, granted for repayment of the loan. That deadline failed to be met and with special rules in place over the COVID-19 pandemic period, UBS was legally unable to pursue enforcement until April 2021.
When the bank sought a court order for enforcement in October last year, Mallya filed an application of stay on the grounds that the bank had placed “unreasonable obstacles” in his path to repay the sums through family trust funds. His legal team also produced a non-binding letter claiming a company was willing to acquire the property, which would help pay off the loan.
However, Deputy Master Marsh concluded that the letter was of “limited assistance” and expressed “real doubts about the bonafide of that offer”.
Under the May 2019 order, UBS had been granted an “immediate right to possession” and Mallya and the co-defendants were not permitted to make any further applications to “postpone or suspend the date for giving up possession”.
The court order also forbade any further claims arising out of the bankruptcy proceedings against Mallya by a consortium of Indian banks led by State Bank of India (SBI), proceedings which concluded in a bankruptcy order in July last year.
Meanwhile, Mallya is wanted in India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to an alleged ₹ 9,000 crores related to loans made to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
The former United Breweries chief remains on bail in the UK while a “confidential” legal matter, believed to be related to an asylum application, is resolved following separate extradition proceedings