Perpignan (France): A French court has lifted a freeze order on slain Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi’s personal plane, following a bitter battle over the luxury aircraft between a Kuwaiti conglomerate and the Libyan government.
Kuwait’s Al-Kharafi group had the Airbus A340, seen as a symbol of Kadhafi’s extravagance by the rebels who overthrew him, seized amid a near billion-euro debt related to a contract to build a beach resort in Libya.
The plane has been in the southern French city of Perpignan since 2012, soon after Kadhafi’s regime fell, where it had been sent for three million euros’ worth of maintenance work by Air France — as yet unpaid.
“It is very satisfying to see the judge has recognised the fact this plane, which belongs to the Libyan state, has immunity from being seized,” said Carole Sportes, lawyer for the Libyan side yesterday.
In 2006 Al-Kharafi signed a contract with the Kadhafi regime to build a beach resort on Libya’s Mediterranean coast, which it was to run for 90 years, but Tripoli cancelled the deal unilaterally in 2010.
A Cairo court in 2013 ruled Al-Kharafi was owed 935 million euros over the broken contract and the company had the plane seized as part of efforts to recover the money.
Since Kadhafi was killed in oil-rich Libya’s 2011 uprising, the country has slid into chaos, with the Islamic State group making inroads.
Libya has had two administrations since August 2014, when a militia alliance overran the capital and set up its own parliament in Tripoli while forcing the internationally recognised government to take refuge in Tobruk, in the east.