Big Story 10

Indian tycoon Mallya's yacht impounded in Malta over wage dispute

VALLETTA (Reuters) - A super-yacht owned by Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya has been impounded in Malta after its crew demanded payment of back wages, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Indian Empress was blocked in Valletta harbor after the 40-member crew began legal action claiming they are owed almost a million dollars.

The mariners’ union Nautilus International said the yacht was abandoned by its owners. The crew, including Indians, Britons and East Europeans, have not been paid since September, the union said.

It said the court action impounding the yacht is based on a “maritime lien”, under which the crew of a vessel can declare a claim over it to the value of unpaid wages.

A spokeswoman for Mallya’s company, UB Group, had no immediate comment.

The 95-metre Indian Empress, registered in the Isle of Man, is estimated to be worth some 93 million dollars.

Mallya is in Britain pending extradition proceedings initiated by India.

He stands accused of fraudulently palming off losses from his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines onto banks by taking out loans he had no intention of repaying.

He denies all wrongdoing and his defense team argue that he is being used as a scapegoat by Indian politicians to deflect public anger at the accumulation of bad debts by state-owned banks.

The 61-year-old, nicknamed “the King of Good Times” after the slogan on bottles of one of his premium beers and his hard partying lifestyle, has business interests ranging from aviation to liquor.

He is also co-owner of Formula One motor racing team Force India.

Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Additional reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Philip Pullella and Peter Graff