Government to take legal recourse once it gets asset freeze notice from Cairn Energy

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 08, 2021

Finance ministry says Government remains open for an amicable solution to the dispute within the country’s legal framework

The Government on Thursday said that once facts regarding Cairn Energy’s reported move about freezing assets in France are ascertained, it will take all possible legal recourse.

London based an international newspaper has reported that Scottish oil producer Cairn had effectively seized Indian state-owned properties in Paris. The action by Cairn is the latest attempt to force India to pay $1.7bn awarded by an international tribunal over a tax dispute in December last year.

Cairn Energy secures French court order to seize 20 Indian govt properties

According to a statement issued by the Finance Ministry, there have been news reports that Cairn Energy has seized State owned property of Government of India in Paris. However, Government of India has not received any notice, order or communication, in this regard, from any French Court. “We are trying to ascertain the facts, and whenever such an order is received, Government of India will take appropriate legal remedies in consultation with its Counsels,” the statement said.

Further, it reiterated that government has already filed an application on March 22, 2021 to set aside the December 2020 international arbitral award in The Hague Court of Appeal. “The Government of India will vigorously defend its case in set aside proceedings at The Hague,” it said.

It also mentioned that the CEO and the representatives of Cairn have approached the Government of India for discussions to resolve the matter. “Constructive discussions have been held and the Government remains open for an amicable solution to the dispute within the country’s legal framework,” it said.

Cairn to target more State companies to recover money due from Government

Meanwhile, the newspaper wrote that the company says it has identified $70 bn of assets around the world ranging from buildings to Air India aircraft that it may try to seize as long as the Modi government refuses to pay. Its asset freeze application in Paris is the first to succeed. The company said it would effectively transfer the ownership of 20 properties valued at more than €20m, including in the 16th and 14th arrondissements.

Lawsuit in US court

Earlier in May this year, the company filed a lawsuit in US Court against Air India to enforce a $1.2 billion tax arbitration award which it won against India. “Cairn is taking the necessary legal steps to protect shareholders’ interests in the absence of a resolution to the arbitral award,” a company spokesperson had said. He added that the company remains open to continuing constructive dialogue with the Indian Government to arrive at a satisfactory outcome to this issue.

In the beginning of this year, Cairn moved courts in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, France, Singapore, Japan, the UAE and Cayman Islands to get the December 21 international arbitration tribunal award registered and recognised. This was the first step before it can seek seizure of the Indian government assets such as bank accounts, payments to state-owned entities, aircraft and ships in those jurisdictions in case India does not return the value of the shares seized and sold, dividend confiscated, and tax refund stopped to adjust a ₹10,247-crore tax demand raised using a retrospective legislation.

Published on July 08, 2021

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