Art dealer claims to have bought Vijay Mallya’s luxury jet in auction

Mumbai: Days after the service tax department held an auction to sell indebted businessman Vijay Mallya’s personal jet, little-known SGI Commex on Wednesday said it emerged as a ‘successful bidder’ at a price of `27.39 crore ($4.1 million), which is nearly one-sixth of the reserve price.
SGI Commex chairman G. S. Srivastava, an art connoisseur, said the aircraft, an Airbus A319-133 with registration of CJ VT-VJM, will be converted into an art pilgrimage venture under the label of ‘Beyond the Obvious’ and that it will not be used as a private carrier.

Srivastava said he has helped corporatise and uplift the art market with his landmark deal of the M. F. Hussain work ‘Our Planet Called Earth Series’. He plans to utilise the aircraft to promote exotic art work ingrained in various temples and religious places across the country through religious tourism, particularly among foreigners.

The latest auction, held as part of the efforts of the department to recover over `800 crore dues, took place on 18 August after an earlier auction failed on 30 June. The service tax department had set `152 crore as the reserve price during both the auctions for the jet, which once served as the private aircraft of the flamboyant businessman.

In the first attempt at auction, a Dubai-based company had offered just `1 crore, which was turned down. In a statement, the city-based SGI Commex said it has emerged as the successful bidder for the aircraft auction held by MSTC on behalf of the service tax department on 18 August, with a bid of $4.1 million.

It further said another $3.5 million is estimated to be required to make the aircraft ‘air-worthy’. The auction of the jet was challenged by Mumbai Airport at the Bombay High Court claiming unpaid airport fees.

As per an order passed on 22 August, SGI Commex will have to pay an additional amount towards taxes, hangar charges and the cost of equipment to be installed to make the aircraft air-worthy. The order, uploaded on the high court website yesterday, was passed by judges B. P. Colabawalla and S. C. Dharmadhikari.

The high court has posted the matter for final disposal to 13 September. When contacted, a service tax department official, however, said a final decision will be taken by CBEC on whether to challenge the HC order or not.

A final decision on whether to accept the bid or not is also pending, he maintained. “We have reservations about the `27 crore bid as this is much lower than our reserved price of `152 crore or $22.5 million. That position has been brought to notice of the Bombay high court,” the official told PTI.


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