A Canadian bank is petitioning a court to ground a Bombardier luxury jet after a C$52 million loan issued to purchase the aircraft allegedly went unpaid.
In 2014, Canada’s state-owned export-import bank, Export Development Canada (EDC) approved a US$41-million (C$52-million) loan to South Africa’s Gupta family for the purchase of a Bombardier Global 6000. The Gupta family is at the centre of several political corruption scandals around the former South African president, Jacob Zuma, though they have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The EDC had been helping Bombardier secure a sale, but said in December 2017 that it had scrapped the deal after the Guptas failed to meet loan repayment requirements in previous weeks.
In addition, the EDC cited a “political exposure” risk as a factor in the decision. Under the agreement, the Canadian government’s export agency was financing 80 per cent of the C$52-million cost of the Bombardier Global 6000 with the tail number ZS-OAK.
However, the Canadian aircraft has since disappeared after a public tracking device was disabled on February 4, as stated in court documents, and the EDC is petitioning a Johannesburg court to ground the aircraft until its request to have the plane removed from the Gupta family’s possession can be heard in a U.K. court.
According to the local news outlet EWN, a lawyer representing the EDC told the court that the aircraft’s tracking device had been turned off, making it impossible to determine its location.
“Export Development Canada (EDC) is petitioning the courts to ground the aircraft,” said Phil Taylor, a spokesman for the agency, which provides Canadian exporters with trade financing.
The EDC has said in previous statements that the family defaulted on the loan in October 2017, and still owed the bank US$27-million. Furthermore, the EDC expressed concern in the statement that the aircraft had been used to help the GUPTA family escape justice from the law.
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The Gupta family’s alleged corruption started a chain reaction of political scandals that forced former president Zuma out of office. An arrest warrant is still outstanding for one of the family’s three brothers, Anjay Gupta, who has been declared a “fugitive from justice.”
“All my clients want is for the aircraft to sit in a hangar somewhere so it can’t be flown to Dubai or India or somewhere,” Alfred Cockrell, EDC’s lawyer, told South Guateng high court in Johannesburg.
He added that EDC does not “want to sell this aircraft in the interim period, they just want the aircraft to be put in a safe place where it can be stored and where it cannot be used by the Guptas.”
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Global News previously reached out to EDC for comment but was told the agency couldn’t speak on the matter while involved in court proceedings.
The proceedings were adjourned on Friday with judgment expected in a week or so, local media reported.
-With files from Reuters.
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