The personal sword of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, that former liquor magnate Vijay Mallya had bought in an auction amid much fanfare, has vanished and no one knows where it’s gone. The matter came to light when a consortium of 13 Indian banks on Tuesday tried hard to convince the London High Court against discharging a freeze order on the global assets of Mallya, Times of India reported.
Mallya, who owes Rs 9,000 crore (approx) to Indian banks, had bought the sword of Mysore King for Rs 1.5 crore at a private auction in London in 2004. However, later in 2016, he gave away the rare sword after his family said ‘it brought bad luck’. The sword is worth £188,000 (about Rs 1.8 crore today) and there is no word on its current whereabouts.
The lawyers representing Indian banks, who brought up the issue of the personal sword of Tipu Sultan who ruled the city from 1782 to 1799, told the court that Indian banks are at risk of Mallya ‘dissipating his assets.’
According to the report, one of Mallya’s former colleagues in Bengaluru claimed that the businessman had tried to give away the sword to a reputed museum for safekeeping but the latter refused to take it citing preservation and maintenance issues. The ex-colleague added that it was unclear what Mallya did after it.
Even Tipu Sultan’s successor has no information where the sword went. Sahebzada Mansoor Ali Tipu, the seventh-generation successor of Tipu Sultan, claimed that the family has tried to purchase it from Mallya. “As far as our understanding goes, the sword is nowhere to be seen. Neither the small museum of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna nor any of the family members have it. Mallya never disclosed the location of the sword to anyone,” he told TOI, adding that his family was ready to initiate legal action to bring it back to the country due to its historical and archaeological importance.
Mallya’s lawyer Nicholas Peacock QC, however, set the value of the sword against the millions owed to the banks to argue that it was insufficient to justify the allegation that Mallya would hide or dispose of his assets. “Insofar as you are looking for actual dissipation of assets, this (the sword) is it. He disposed of it at a time that he had put forward a settlement offer in excess of what claimants (the banks) wanted. So it was not a dissipation. His explanation is he was told by his family that they thought it was bringing him bad luck and I think it would be fair to say something was bringing him bad luck. We should not question superstition in other cultures.” Peacock said in court.
Mallya had declared the sword he bought for £188,400 (about Rs 1.8 crore) as part of his Indian assets when he declared them to the Supreme Court of India in April 2016. Nigel Tozzi QC, representing the 13 Indian banks in London court, said: “We are now told the regalia Sultan sword has been disposed of and Mallya has no right to reclaim it,” Tozzi said. Tozzi added that in Mallya’s affidavit to them the businessman had written, “I gave it away in 2016 as my family said it was bringing me bad luck.”