The 95m Indian Empress was boarded by port officials in Malta and preventing from leaving. Its crew had filed a legal action against its millionaire owner Vijay Mallya for US$1m in unpaid wages. The Oceanco-built yacht is valued at US$93m. The crew includes Britons, Indians and eastern European workers who have not been paid since September. The Guardian reports that some of the senior crew are owed up to US$92,000.
Mallya, the self-proclaimed “King of Good Times,” is fighting extradition from the UK to India, appears to have abandoned the vessel.
Authorities allege that he supported his Formula One racing team with cash that was laundered.
Danny McGowan of the maritime union Nautilus International told The Guardian that the crew were left with no choice but to ask the courts to hold the Isle of Man-registered superyacht. It has been impounded in a 'maritime lien' which gives the crew claim over the vessel to the value of the unpaid wages. “Our members onboard gave their employer and the ship owner multiple opportunities to pay monthly wages, displaying a loyalty and restraint greater than many would show in such situations,” McGowan told the paper. “These opportunities were regularly ignored by the owner, leaving us with no option but to take the case to the courts.”
McGowan said the union had secured US$615,000, which covers four months worth of unpaid wages from the vessel’s insurers. Nautilus members were still owed US$330,000 and non-union members are owed thousands more, he added.
A representative for Mallya did not respond to requests for comment.
Mallya spent more than £5m refitting the yacht in 2015.