Tax dispute freezes Indian real estate in Paris

Cairn India employees work at a storage facility for crude oil at Mangala oil field at Barmer in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan. – Filepic

PARIS: A Scottish energy company said Thursday it had won the right to freeze property in Paris owned by India, in its latest attempt to get back US$1.7bil (RM7bil) it says it is owed by New Delhi.

Last year an international arbitration tribunal ruled that India should pay Cairn Energy US$1.2bil (RM6bil) in a complex tax dispute. Cairn says it is also owed US$500mil (RM2bil) in interest.

India – which is involved in several other similar disputes, which critics say have dented its attractiveness to foreign investment – has appealed against the ruling.

A Cairn spokesperson told AFP it had been “successful in its application to the French court to freeze residential real estate owned by the government of India in central Paris”.

According to the Financial Times, the company said it would effectively transfer the ownership of the 20 properties in the French capital, valued at more than €20mil (RM100mil).

Indian media reports said Cairn would not evict Indian officials living in the properties, citing the company as saying its “strong preference remains an agreed, amicable settlement with the government of India”.

“However, in the absence of such a settlement, Cairn must take all necessary legal actions to protect the interests of its international shareholders, ” the firm added.

India’s finance ministry said it had “not received any notice, order or communication, in this regard, from any French Court”.

“(The) government is trying to ascertain the facts, and whenever such an order is received, appropriate legal remedies will be taken, ” it said.

Earlier this year, Cairn Energy put several Manhattan properties owned by Air India in its crosshairs when it filed a lawsuit in New York to recognise the airline as “legally indistinct” from the Indian government.

The firm reportedly disclosed it had identified US$70bil (RM287bil) in overseas assets owned by the Indian state that could potentially be seized.

“Constructive discussions have been held (with Cairn) and the government remains open for an amicable solution to the dispute within the country’s legal framework, ” the finance ministry’s statement added. — AP.

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