BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: Informed sources in financial circles in Mumbai and Delhi speaking in hushed tones allege that actor-bizman Sachiin Joshi may after all be a “secret front” for absconding businessman and promoter of UB Group and the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines Vijay Mallya.
According to news reports, the consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India, which has been trying to recover dues from liquor baron Vijay Mallya, finally found a buyer for his Goa-based Kingfisher Villa earlier this week. After three failed auctions, the 12,350 square foot house which bankers pegged at a reserve price of nearly Rs 90 crore, was sold for just Rs 73 crore to actor-producer Sachiin Joshi, reported news agency PTI.
Mallya owes banks over Rs 9,000 crore. The Sachiin Joshi-owned movie production company Viiking Media & Entertainment bought the villa in a private deal, senior officials involved in the matter told ET.
Even in repressed market conditions, the value of the sprawling sea-facing bungalow property is at least Rs 85 crore. The consortium of banks are eager to close the matter and recover whatever monies are possible. This is where Mallya’s good friend Sachiin Joshi fitted in. Buying the property “dirt cheap”, he would later on sell it back either to Mallya himself or to one of his benami nominees at a huge profit, said a top banking source from Mumbai.
In spite of several attempts to contact Sachiin Joshi, he was not available for comment. Vijay Mallya of course is no reachable and bank officials were not willing to comment on the sale, except for what was officially put out.
According to media reports, after failing to attract buyers during the most recent auction on March 6, it was sold through a private treaty. “Secured creditors have the right to go for a private treaty if the auction route fails. The villa was sold through a bilateral agreement earlier this week for Rs 73.01 crore to actor-producer Sachiin Joshi,” a source told PTI. The villa is legally owned by United Breweries Holdings.
The first auction for the property was held in October 2016, where banks set a reserve price of Rs 85.29 crore. The second auction, last December, hoped to fetch anywhere above Rs 81 crore. For the third auction last month, the banks set the reserve price at Rs 73 crore, nearly 10 per cent lower than the previous auction, reports PTI.
Apart from the villa, the lenders have been trying to auction the Kingfisher logo and Mallya’s Kingfisher House in Mumbai. The logo of the grounded airline which is valued at Rs 4,000 crore, was unsuccessfully auctioned at Rs 330 crore, reported PTI. The Mumbai property is reportedly valued at over Rs 150 crore.
Sachiin Joshi also owns Goa-based beer brand Kings Beer and has a minority stake in PB Lifestyle, an exclusive licence holder in India for Playboy Enterprises.
Playboy Enterprises had tried to unsuccessfully launch the Playboy Club in Goa, which was shelved after local lawmakers objected to the concept.
The Sarfaesi Act allows banks to cut a private deal to sell the assets of a defaulter if auctions fail twice. But under the rules, the asset should be sold above the last reserve price. In this case, Viiking Media agreed to pay Rs 1 lakh more than the last reserve price, reports the Economic Times.
Vijay Mallya absconded to the UK last May, after being declared a wilful defaulter by the banks for failing to repay the loans in connection to Kingfisher Airlines. The airlines was grounded back in 2012.
Talks are currently underway between the Indian and UK governments to extradite the businessman. Britain’s secretary of state recently certified India’s request for extradition. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay had confirmed, “The UK home department on February 21 conveyed that the request of India for extradition of Mallya has been certified by the secretary of state and sent to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a district judge to consider the issue of releasing of warrant.”
Separately, a parliamentary panel directed the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to probe the defunct company, to find out why it was allowed to accumulate such high dues.
With inputs from PTI & INDAIN EXPRESS