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Winning bidder of 95m superyacht Indian Empress denied payment extension

The winning bidder in the court-ordered auction of the abandoned superyacht Indian Empress may have lost the chance to own the 95 metre superyacht after missing the payment deadline.

The buyer, who is understood to be from Iran, failed to pay the €43.5 million owed by the original deadline on July 5 and had applied to the Maltese court for a 15 day extension.

While maritime workers union Nautilus International agreed to the extended deadline, the court rejected the request and has thrown new doubt over the future of the superyacht.

It is understood the court will now select a new date to re-hold the auction. There were at least six registered bidders for the Indian Empress at the original auction on June 28 where bids for the vessel began at €25 million. However only three made bids during the auction.

Nautilus strategic organiser Danny McGowan said that despite approving the extension, the union was “pleased to see the law being applied so strictly in this case.”

“It sends a strong message to those purchasing the vessel that yacht ownership is something that needs to be taken seriously." he said.

“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. Our members have waited for long enough already.”

The news comes as the Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, who was previously accused of abandoning Indian Empress, denied being the owner of the yacht.

Speaking to news agency Reuters, Mallya said he has not owned the yacht since 2011. He claimed the yacht actually belongs to “a Middle Eastern gentleman” but declined to identify him.

Mr McGowan added: “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.”

He asked: “If that’s the case, why did the wages stop being paid around the time of his assets being frozen?”

The long running dispute dates back to September 2017 when the unknown owner of Indian Empress is understood to have abandoned the yacht.

It is alleged that more than 40 crew on board have not been paid since this point.

Individuals are understood to be owed between $6,250 to more than $92,000 each. The total amount is thought to exceed $1 million in unpaid wages.

The yacht was impounded in March this year on behalf of 13 creditors who are reported to be owed around €2 million. Local reports suggested the yacht was boarded by port officials who prevented her from leaving the port. Marine Traffic confirms the yacht remains in Malta. It is understood that while some crew remain working onboard, many have left to seek alternative employment.

Launched by Oceanco in 2000, Indian Empress was the subject of a major 2016 refit. She offers accommodation for up to 12 guests and 30 crewmembers in a 3,176GT interior.

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