Batelco Draws First Blood

MUMBAI/CHENNAI: In a relief to Batelco Group, Bahrain based global telecoms company, the Madras High Court has directed serial investor Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, his relatives and his flagship company Siva Ltd not to sell or to create any third party rights on some of their Indian assets until February 22. The values of these movable and immovable assets are around Rs 500 crore (about $74 million).

The case was filed by the BMIC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Batelco as per the ruling - decree in legal parlance - of the UK court of June 2014, which had directed Sivasankaran popularly known as Siva and his affiliates to pay up around $212 million. According to Batelco, that UK Judgment made it mandatory for Siva to payback the entire outstanding sum by 26 June 2014 but till date he has have failed to comply.

"Batelco Group...has successfully obtained today Indian freezing orders from the Madras High Court against certain Indian assets of Sivasankaran and his relatives including former wife Jayalakshmi Sivasankaran, his parents RCK Vallal and Chinnakannan Chandrammal and his associates Baskaran, Nithyavathi Venkatesan and his related company, Siva Limited," said a released issued by Batelco.

The genesis of the disputes lies in the cancellation of telecom licenses by the Supreme Court in 2012. BMIC had originally acquired 42.7% stake in S Tel in 2009, a year after the company won a 2G licence. Siva was the other principal shareholder in the company. Following the cancellation of 2G licenses of the company along with other 121 operators by the Apex Court, BMIC sought to implement a put option under the agreement to get his investment back. As per the agreement between the two parties, it was decided that if there are circumstances like cancellation of S Tel's licenses or failure to secure debt finance, Siva will have to buy back the shares acquired by BMIC at the original paid price. However, Siva failed to do so, which led Batelco launching legal proceedings.

"We fully expect all of the respondents to honour the Indian Court Orders and pay to BMIC the monies owing to it under the UK judgement," said Ihab Hannawi, Group CEO of Batelco in a release. "We will pursue all legal avenues available to us against such parties to secure this outstanding payment."

However, sources close to Siva says Batelco has no locus standi to file a case against him in Madras High Court as he is not an Indian citizen. C Sivasankaran's relatives will contest the case in the Madras High Court when the case comes up for hearing next, according to those aware of the plan.

Batelco also claimed that the Indian businessman had conveniently timed his divorce property settlement with his former wife in Seychelles just before the UK court passed an order and he transferred properties of around $100 million for no consideration on his wife's name. The same properties are under dispute.

BMIC also argued in the court that Siva had petitioned the Supreme Court of Seychelles for an order that he be declared 'bankrupt', in July 2014; soon after the UK Judgment went against him. They argued that Siva had created an extensive network of companies in India and is currently operating through them, with the active aid and support of his related associates, so as to avoid making payment of significant monies owed to his outstanding creditors, in particular BMIC. On 26 August 2014, the Supreme Court of Seychelles declared Mr Siva as an Insolvent/Bankrupt and permitted him to be released from such bankruptcy, despite protests from BMIC to do otherwise.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/batelco-draws-first-blood-chennai-hc-freezes-sivas-select-india-assets-till-month-end/articleshow/51013766.cms

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