A court has ordered that King Mswati III of Swaziland cannot sell or dispose of his private jet until a dispute over his alleged failure to pay a US$3.5 million debt is resolved.
This is part of a long-running legal dispute between Shanmuga Rethenam, who owns a company called SG Air, and the King.
Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, has succeeded in getting a freezing order from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). If the King fails to comply with the order he faces contempt of court charges and possible imprisonment.
SG Air claims that King Mswati owes it the money for repairs and modifications undertaken to his private McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 aircraft in 2012. The case was heard in the Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, in June 2015, when the King won on a legal technicality.
However, pending possible appeals, King Mswati, through a company he owns called Inchatsavane, was forced to lodge a letter of credit for US$3.5 million with Canadian lawyers, in case he lost the appeal. The money was due to be released on 15 September 2015.
Since the Canadian court case, the Swazi Government announced it intended to try to lease out the aircraft, valued at about US$14.5 million, and in turn lease the King a larger, more luxurious jet, with the possibility of buying it at a later date.
The DC-9-87 is reportedly undergoing repairs in South Africa and one of its engines might be sent to the United Kingdom for further work. The BVI court freezing order applies to both South Africa and the UK.
The new freezing order means the King cannot dispose of the aircraft or its engines until the court case over the alleged debt is resolved.
The court order was made in the BVI because that is where SG Air is incorporated. It is impossible to take court action against King Mswati in Swaziland, because as the kingdom’s absolute monarch he is immune from the law.
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