Had to sell jewelry to pay legal costs: Anil Ambani
Anil Ambani, once the world's sixth-richest man, told a court in London on Friday that he sold his jewelry to meet legal costs and that his expenses are being borne by his family, reports said. The ex-billionaire made these submissions before a high court in London, in connection to loan-repayment to three Chinese banks. He was told in May to return over $700 million.
The business tycoon took a loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (Mumbai Branch), China Development Bank, and Exim Bank of China for Reliance Communications in 2012. He gave a personal guarantee, but years later the venture failed and RCom is now in the middle of insolvency proceedings. Thereafter, the lenders approached the London court, seeking orders for Ambani.
On May 22, 2020, Justice Nigel at the Commercial Division of the High Court, had ordered Ambani to honor the deal and repay the money. He was given a deadline of June 12. When he failed to pay up, the court asked him to list his assets worth over $100,000; bank statements, and the list of credit card transactions in the last 24 months.
Now, in Friday's proceedings, Ambani was questioned about his liabilities, his luxurious lifestyle, and the help he has received from his brother, business magnate Mukesh Ambani. He had requested the hearing to be held privately, which the judge assumed was because Ambani wanted to save himself from embarrassment. The 61-year-old maintained his net worth was negative, a claim countered by the Chinese banks.
Bankim Thanki, the legal representative of the three Chinese banks, said the information Ambani provided about his wealth was incomplete. The lawyer said Ambani used credit cards at Harrods, Dolce & Gabbana, and Harvey Nichols. However, Ambani clarified the card was swiped by his mother Kokilaben Ambani. He didn't furnish a credit card statement because he wasn't using one, he told the court.
Thanki asked Ambani about the yacht he gifted his wife, Tina Ambani. The businessman said the yacht was unused for many years and added that he lived a humble lifestyle. "I do not drink...I do not smoke. Any suggestion of a lavish lifestyle is the creation of media," he said. When asked about the artworks he owns, Ambani said he possesses only one.
Ambani was also grilled about the $66 million loan he received from his mother. He maintained he was unaware of the terms of the loan, but claimed it wasn't a "gift." It also came to the court's notice that he took a loan, to the tune of crores, from son Anmol. Thanki asked if Ambani moved assets in Tina's name to deliberately mislead creditors.
When asked to reply as "yes or no" to the question about him living rent-free in Mukesh Ambani's property, Ambani responded in the affirmative. Thanki said that Ambani's elaborate legal team suggests he has other sources of income, but the latter denied it. He is being represented by noted lawyer Harish Salve. Ambani reiterated he wanted to help the court and wasn't withholding information.