Airline in talks over N$350m debt

Facing the seizure of its assets, Air Namibia is negotiating with the bankrupt Challenge Air SA to make payments in the millions of dollars.

12 March 2019 | Transport

Air Namibia says it is negotiating with Belgian aviation firm Challenge Air SA over the possible payment of over N$350 million for an aircraft it had leased in 1998.

The Munich Regional Appeal Court in July 2015 ruled on several payments Air Namibia had to make in respect of monies owed to Challenge Air, totalling, at today's exchange rate, in the region of N$350 million, with an added daily payment of US$1 335 in respect of unpaid maintenance.

“During recent weeks, Air Namibia has been in direct engagement with Challenge Air through their legally appointed and recognised European receiver to determine viable options to resolve the situation as rapidly and effectively as possible,” the Air Namibia board said in a statement.

The board said the airline was right when it refused to engage with local Challenge Air representative Wilhelm Shali.

“The Namibian courts have not officially recognised any local liquidator for Challenge Air and the question as to the validity of the arbitral award remains sub judice. Therefore, Air Namibia will not acknowledge, engage or negotiate with any Namibian individuals or companies purporting to be official representatives of Challenge Air in Namibia,” the board said.

It is unfortunate that certain individuals have chosen to create incorrect perceptions about the facts in this matter, thereby attempting to unduly influence Air Namibia for their personal gain, and to engage underhandedly to pre-empt the outcome before the Namibian High Court has pronounced itself on the matter.”

Challenge Air's lawyers, Clerens Legal Partners, which instructed Belgian attorney Anicet Baum to act on its behalf, warned Air Namibia's management that it would not be engaging any of the airline's legal representatives if 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 (Johan) Durnez who has been given power of attorney by Air Namibia and that negotiations have never started with Mr Durnez (sic),” Clerens Legal Partners said in a letter.

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.

Shali, has described the situation as unfortunate.

“Air Namibia is fully aware that the judgment in Munich is valid and is being executed. I do not understand why they are quiet as if it is 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.





OGONE TLHAGE

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