Swaziland King Mswati’s Private Jet Held In Canada Over Debt

The King of Swaziland apparently owes a businessman in Canada a lot of money, and a Canadian court impounded King Mswati’s private jet in settlement of R35 million ($2,881,194) of the debt. The monarch apparently actually owes the businessman around R1.6 billion ($131 million) in total.

It seems the plane was in Canada for maintenance at the time the businessman, Shanmuga Rethenam, petitioned to have it seized in partial payment of what he is owed.

The Zimbabwe Daily reports that the debt of R1.6 billion ($131 million) is in the form of damages from when King Maswati III apparently closed a mining operation belonging to Rethenam’s company, Southern Africa Resources Limited (SARL), without that company’s consent.

Reportedly, Mswati and the Swazi government were partners with SARL in the mining venture, and it seems Mswati liquidated the company to avoid repaying a R10 million ($824,000) personal loan he took from the company.

The attachment of King Mswati’s private jet had apparently been kept a secret for over two months, and when finally conceding to the seizure of the asset, Minister of Justice Sibusiso Shongwe attempted a form of damage control in the matter when speaking to Parliament.

“It is important that we understand that we are a unique nation and we have a monarchical democracy which we all have a duty to protect and rally behind our king.”

Apparently, the news finally came to light after the local media wanted to know why the king had leased an aircraft to travel to Japan last week. They then heard the story of how King Mswati’s private jet had been impounded. Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jabulile Mashwama, told the story to MPs in a session broadcast on Swazi TV news.

“Around January 10, we received correspondence from the company that was servicing the plane, informing us there was a court order which instructed the attachment of the plane.”

Investigations showed that when King Mswati’s private jet, a McDonnell Douglas DC9 twin-engine jet, was acquired by the king in 2012, the donor was reported to be Rethenam’s company. This happened as SARL was starting up mining operations in Swaziland with the permission of the king.

Apparently the monarch was to earn a cool R100 million ($82 million) from the mining operation. However, the Swazi government had only identified the plane’s donor as “a development partner.”

Reportedly, the government banned any publication of photographs of King Mswati’s private jet, in the same manner that photos of Mswati’s fleet of luxury cars are banned.

While Mashwama admits that the Canadian courts are in the right by ordering the confiscation of King Mswati’s private jet, some of the MPs are not so happy about the situation and are accusing Canada of “violating Swaziland’s national sovereignty by confiscating a national asset.” According to them, the king and all his possessions are covered by diplomatic immunity.

According to the Times of Swaziland, the Canadian courts have since ordered the release of the jet. Apparently, attorneys representing Swaziland successfully convinced the courts that the plane did, indeed, enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Despite this, the story is not yet over, as Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that Rethenam has filed an appeal.

“The judgment is out and it was in favor of the country. However, Shan has filed an appeal, meaning the plane will continue to be grounded pending the outcome of the appeal hearing.”

There is no news, as yet, as to when King Mswati’s private jet will again be available to the monarch.

In other, rather more positive, news about Africa, the Inquisitr today reported the story of how the Malawian government is preparing a huge bonfire of ivory worth $7.5 million which will be set ablaze on Thursday in an effort to combat elephant poaching.

[Image: King Mswati III CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / your local connection]