UK oil firm Cairn Energy has gained the right to seize Indian state assets in France worth more than €20m (£17m) as part of a long-running tax row. Cairn Energy says a French court has accepted its petition for a freeze on 20 centrally located Indian government properties in Paris as part of its attempts to recover a $1.2 billion arbitration award it won last year. Cairn said it wanted an “amicable settlement” in the $1.2bn (£870m) row. Sources said the Indian government would seek “legal remedies” when it received notice from the French court.

Edinburgh-based oil and gas exploration firm Cairn Energy is in dispute with the Indian government over a 2014 retrospective tax bill, when the country’s tax office seized a 10% stake in Indian operations that Cairn was trying to sell. Cairn took the issue to an international tribunal, which awarded the company $1.7bn in costs and damages in December 2020. The Indian government has appealed against this.

Cairn is unlikely to evict the officials living in those properties but the government cannot sell them after the court order. However, the energy firm has been identifying assets that it would seize in the absence of a settlement, including some belonging to Air India.

The government said today it has “not received any such order from any French court” and will take legal remedies to protect the interests of India. “Government is trying to ascertain the facts, and whenever such an order is received, appropriate legal remedies will be taken, in consultation with its Counsels, to protect the interests of India,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

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