Reliance Communications chief Anil Ambani. Photo: AFP
Reliance Communications chief Anil Ambani. Photo: AFP

Embattled tycoon Anil Ambani, the younger brother of Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, is now facing legal action from Chinese lenders.

After a hearing on Friday in the UK High Court, three Chinese banks – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Export-Import Bank of China and China Development Bank – have decided to pursue legal measures to recover their dues from Anil Ambani’s assets outside India, Times of India reports.

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group owes over US$716 million along with legal costs to these banks. In a statement, the three banks said they will use the “information from the cross-examination to pursue all available legal avenues to protect their rights and recover the outstanding loans owed to them.” They will start proceeding against his assets outside of India based on his disclosures in his affidavit.

The banks said they are currently not pursuing Ambani’s Indian assets as State Bank of India has already initiated insolvency proceedings against him.

The dispute arose over a loan the three Chinese banks gave to Ambani’s mobile phone services venture Reliance Communications in 2012 for $925 million. The company initially paid the instalments, but later started defaulting. In 2017, Reliance Communications had to wind up its wireless operations after being hurt by mounting debts and widening losses. It filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

The Chinese banks claim that Ambani had provided a personal guarantee for the loan, but the latter denied it. However, the UK High Court this year ruled that Ambani must pay back the loan.

Once a billionaire, Anil Ambani’s personal fortune has dwindled over the years as his businesses sank under the weight of debt. In 2006, the two brothers had divided father Dhirubhai Ambani’s business empire. In 2007, Anil Ambani had a net worth of $45 billion, according to the Forbes Rich List, while Mukesh Ambani had a net worth of $49 billion.

However, during Friday’s court hearing, Anil Ambani said he owns “nothing meaningful” and had to sell all his jewellery to pay off legal fees for the ongoing case. He also denied media reports of owning a fleet of cars and said he was a “simple man of simple tastes” and owns just one car.

Ericsson case

Last year, Anil Ambani risked a three-month jail term in the Ericsson payout case, but his billionaire brother Mukesh gave him a lifeline in the nick of time. His elder sibling made a payout of 4.5 billion rupees ($61 million) a day before the deadline set by India’s Supreme Court. The Swedish firm had earlier managed the Reliance Communications network and later took legal action over unpaid dues.