A court has confirmed 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.
The ruling was made in the British Virgin Islands on 23 December 2015after the East Caribbean High Court was told that there might be plans to lease the plane and then lease a second plane for King Mswati’s use.
There has been a long-running dispute between Shanmuga Rethenam, who owns a company called SG Air, and the King.
Rethenam, popularly known as Shan, succeeded in getting a freezing order from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in September 2015.
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 BVI Commercial Court was told the DC-9-87 was flown from Swaziland to South Africa and back again since September 2015. There was a dispute that this might violate the freezing order. The plane is presently at Matsapha Airport in Swaziland.
The 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.
The judgment of the BVI Commercial Court, delivered by Judge Gerald St. C. Farara, was that the freezing order on the aircraft’s movement should continue pending the outcome of the financial dispute.