Cairn Energy gets French court to freeze 20 Indian govt assets in Paris

British resources firm Cairn Energy said on Thursday it has secured an order to freeze Indian government-owned assets in central Paris worth 20 million Euros, marking the first win in a series of cases filed across various courts in several countries in the tax case against the Indian government. 

Tribunal judiciaire de Paris ordered the freeze on 20 residential real estate properties owned by the Government of India in an attempt to force India to pay up $1.7 bn arbitration award that Cairn won in a 23 December 2020 award from the Permanent Court of Arbitration.  
“This is the necessary preparatory step to taking ownership of the properties and ensures that the proceeds of any sales would be due to Cairn,” the company said. 
The frozen assets, mostly flats, valued at more than EUR 20 million, were used by Indian government establishment in France, reports citing sources close to the development said.
While Cairn is unlikely to evict the Indian officials residing in those properties, the government cannot sell them without the sanction of the court.
Cairn Energy has been at loggerheads with the Indian government over tax claims that the income tax authorities in India enforced on the company through sale of shares. The Indian government did not recognise the arbitration awards – both by the Singapore tribunal and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. Subsequently, Cairn registered multiple suits in jurisdictions like the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Mauritius, France and the Netherlands mounting pressure on India to abide by the award. 
Cairn, last month, also filed a petition with a New York court seeking judicial confirmation that India’s national carrier, Air India, can be classed as the Indian state and thereby jointly liable for the arbitral award.
“Our strong preference remains an agreed, amicable settlement with the Government of India to draw this matter to a close, and to that end we have submitted a detailed series of proposals to them since February this year. However, in the absence of such a settlement, Cairn must take all necessary legal actions to protect the interests of its international shareholders,” the company said. 
India’s finance ministry said that it had not received any notice or communication from any French Court but it will take appropriate legal remedies in consultation with its counsels. 
The government had, on 22 March 2021, filed an application to set aside the December 2020 international arbitral award of The Hague Court of Appeal.
Reports, meanwhile, said Cairn has simultaneously 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,” the government said.