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Cairn Energy Tax Dispute: No Notice Yet On UK Group Freezing Indian Properties in France, Says Govt

Cairn Energy said it would effectively transfer the ownership of 20 properties of the government, according to reports

Cairn Energy said it would effectively transfer the ownership of 20 properties of the government, according to reports

Cairn Energy Tax Dispute with Indian govt: Government of India will vigorously defend its case in Set Aside proceedings at The Hague, said finance ministry

Clarifying the reports of British Energy major Cairn Energy freezing Indian state-owned properties in Paris, the central government said on Thursday that they have not received any notice yet. “There have been news reports that Cairn Energy has seized state-owned property of Government of India in Paris. However, Govt. of India has not received any notice, order or communication, in this regard, from any French Court," the ministry of finance stated.

Cairn Energy, Scottish oil producer said that the French Court has allowed them to freeze Indian state-owned properties in Paris towards the settlement of the international arbitration order, according to a report published in the Financial Times. This has come after India had filed an appeal against the tribunal’s decision that asked the Indian government to pay Cairn $1.2 billion. “On June 11, the French court had ordered Cairn Energy’s take-over of Indian government properties, mostly comprising flat; and the legal process got completed on Wednesday evening," PTI reported.

The company said it would effectively transfer the ownership of 20 properties of the government, valued at more than €20 million, according to report, according to the Financial Times. Cairn said Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris’s order was a “necessary preparatory step to taking ownership of the properties and ensures that the proceeds of any sales would be due to Cairn", the publication mentioned.

“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," finance ministry mentioned.

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In December 2020, an international tribunal said that India violated its obligations under UK-India bilateral investment treaty in 2014 through the levy of taxes. It asked the Indian government to pay the funds worth $1.2 billion withheld along with the interest to the oil explorer for seizing dividend, tax refund, and sale of shares to partly recover the dues.

“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. Government of India will vigorously defend its case in Set Aside proceedings at The Hague," finance ministry added.

After India’s refusal to follow the arbitration order, Cairn had moved courts in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, France, Singapore, Japan, UAE and Cayman Islands to get the case registered and recognised.

In a letter to the Indian government earlier this year, British energy major had indicated it could seize overseas assets such as bank accounts, payments to state-owned entities, aeroplanes and ships if New Delhi fails to comply with the arbitration award and return the value of the shares sold, dividend seized and tax refund withheld by the income tax department to recover part of the tax demand it had raised using retrospective legislation.

In May, Cairn Energy Plc sued India’s national carrier Air India in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The UK-based group has identified $70 billion of Indian assets overseas for potential seizure to collect the amount, which now totals to $1.72 billion after including interest and penalty, according to PTI.

Cairn Energy told CNBC-TV18 that they prefer an agreed, amicable settlement with the government of India."We have submitted a detailed series of proposals to govt since February this year. In the absence of settlement, will take all actions to protect international shareholders’ interest,’ it added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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first published:July 08, 2021, 10:40 IST