Bell tolls for Air Nam

More asset attachments loom

02 September 2019 | Transport

Liquidated Belgian aviation firm Challenge Air SA says it is growing impatient at Air Namibia's failure to settle a N$400 million suit over the lease of a Boeing 767.

High Court Judge Thomas Masuku in July ruled that Belgian lawyer Anicet Baum, who is the sole curator of Challenge Air, can represent the company in a Namibian court in an ongoing dispute with Air Namibia and its former sister company TransNamib.

The firm is demanding that Air Namibia settle a legacy debt incurred during the lease of the aircraft in 1998. Air Namibia took delivery of the aircraft but subsequently terminated the lease agreement, leading to the eventual demise of Challenge Air in that same year.

It will not be the first time Air Namibia has its assets attached as a consequence of the lawsuit brought by Challenge Air. Late last year and even during the course of this year, Challenge Air managed to attach money generated by Air Namibia's Frankfurt-Windhoek flights, causing a cash crunch that disrupted the airline's operations in June and July.

Challenge Air was able to attach over N$10 million from Air Namibia's bank accounts, this publication reported in January.

Consequently, three Airbus A319 planes belonging to the airline were attached in South Africa and Cyprus in June because of non-payment for maintenance done on the aircraft.

Lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is representing the Belgian firm here in Namibia, says they are growing impatient and may attach Air Namibia assets in the coming days.

“We had enough of a debtor (Air Namibia) who acts as if its debts are precious and valuable stock in trade to bluff and boast around. So unless there is a settlement agreement in the next few days, we will have more of its assets attached,” Namandje said.

Air Namibia remained reserved on the matter when approached for comment. According to spokesperson Paul Nakawa, the airline is consulting the government.

“Air Namibia management and board, in consultation with its shareholder, are seized with the matter. Further announcement will be communicated in the normal course should settlement discussions ensue,” Nakawa said.

Air Namibia terminated its lease agreement with Challenge Air in July 1998 after discovering that the aircraft in question was defective. The two companies agreed to binding arbitration, with a hearing taking place in 2006 in London, England. In August 2008, the arbiter ruled against Air Namibia and TransNamib, CH Aviation reported.

Air Namibia's attempts to stave off payment to Challenge Air were delivered further blows in 2011 when a French arbitration court ruled in favour of Challenge Air. That was followed by a similar ruling by the Munich Regional Appeal Court.