After three failed auctions, fugitive financial offender Vijay Mallya's luxury jet has finally found a buyer, the US-based Aviation Management Sales, LLC.
The Airbus A319-133C bearing Mallya's initials 'VT-VJM' in its registration number was auctioned by an official attached to the Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru.
The American company emerged as the highest bidder, closing the auction with a bid of Rs. 34.8 Crore ($5.05 million), after the auction opened at $1.9 million. This is far greater than the bids received at previous e-auctions held by the Service Tax Department. The bid by Aviation Management is subject to the approval of the Bombay High Court.
Mallya has failed to repay his loans, and the auction was held to recover the dues and penalties owed by Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, which is now in liquidation, to the Service Tax Department. Despite the aircraft's luxurious interiors, the plane's value was limited to just $1.9 million since it has been grounded for well over five years.
If the plane had been in an airworthy condition, its price could have been well around the $100 million mark, according to a source.
Mallya's customised jet has a capacity of 25 passengers and six crew members. It comes with a bedroom, bathroom, bar and conference room amongst other amenities. Since it was confiscated by the tax department, the plane had been parked at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. The Bombay HC received a plea from the airport to remove the plane, and in April this year, the court directed the official liquidator attached to the Karnataka HC to sell the plane, saying it was their duty as Kingfisher was a Bengaluru-based airline.
Airport authorities said that the airport was facing a space crunch and the parked jet was costing them between Rs 13,000 and Rs 15,000 per hour.