Air Namibia unable to escape N$350m storm

08 March 2019 | Transport

Air Namibia's attempts to directly engage Challenge Air SA over a N$350 million debt have suffered another setback, as attempts by their Belgian lawyer to engage the aviation firm were snubbed.

This has unleashed fresh threats that Air Namibia's assets and monies “around the world” would be seized.

This followers Air Namibia's appointment of Belgian lawyer Johan Durnez, who was to have engaged with the liquated aviation firm over a matter involving the payment of over N$350 million for Air Namibia's leasing of a Boeing 767 in 1998.

Durnez's power of attorney replaced that of Air Namibia's former lawyers Shikongo Law Chambers, which had represented the airline in its attempts to not pay Challenge Air SA.

Shikongo had also been snubbed.

Both Shikongo and Durnez had been repeatedly advised to engage Challenge Air's local representative Wilhelm Shali or law firm Sisa Namandje Incorporated.

Challenge Air's lawyers Clerens Legal Partners, who have instructed Belgian attorney Anicet Baum to act on its behalf, warned Air Namibia management that it would not be engaging any of its legal representatives if its Namibian representatives Shali or law firm Sisa Namandje Incorporated were not part of the process.

“To be even more clear and explicit, at the risk of overly repeating ourselves, Mr Anicet Baum, sole challenger of Challenge Air SA, is formal that he nor any lawyer representing him as sole receiver, does not want to negotiate with Mr Durnez who has been given power of attorney by Air Namibia and that negotiations have never started with Mr Durnez (sic),” the letter said.

The lawyers warned Air Namibia that its refusal to engage Shali or Sisa Namandje Incorporated would see it “execute” (lay claim to monies and property).

“We want to make it very clear that, as already indicated and confirmed to you by our previous letters, all negotiations with respect to this matter must be conducted through Mr Wilhelm Shali and Sisa Namandje Incorporated who have full authority thereto.

“If you prefer not to negotiate under the aforementioned conditions, we will just continue to execute in Germany, Europe and the whole world if necessary, so as to enforce the rights of our client, Mr Baum pursuant to the final and binding arbitral awards and court orders,” Clerens Legal Partners added.

The Durnez power of attorney was signed by Air Namibia's acting MD Mandi Samson on 1 February 2019.

“Air Namibia hereby revokes any and all general powers of attorneys that previously have been signed on behalf of Air Namibia,” the power of attorney authored by Samson read.

“My agent shall have full power and authority to act on my behalf. This power and authority shall authorise my agent to manage and conduct all of their affairs and to exercise all their legal rights and powers related to the case towards Mr Baum, receiver of Challenge Air SA in bankruptcy,” the letter reads.

Air Namibia board chairperson advocate Deidré Sauls-Deckenbrock did not comment when asked whether the board had given Samson the go-ahead to authorise Durnez to engage Challenge Air SA.

Challenge Air SA's local representative, Shali, has described the situation as unfortunate.

“Air Namibia is fully aware that the judgement in Munich is valid and is being executed. I do not understand why they are quiet as if it's business as usual, when even Challenge Air informs them that we have the mandate to resolve the issues,” Shali said.

Air Namibia had, according to him, been asked to amicably solve the matter.

“We are willing to come to the table as we have always been. Let them come and we see ways and means to resolve the issues. Of course, if they choose not to engage in discussions then they are the ones responsible for the mess they are putting our national airline in; it's sad,” he said.

Namibian Sun understands that Challenge Air SA is set to have the Munich ruling enforced in South Africa, as its accounts have been frozen in Germany.

Money collected by its German-based booking firm Aviareps has also been successfully extracted by Challenge Air SA, Namibian Sun understands.


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