Kirchner rents aircraft to avoid seizure of jet
Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner is undertaking a tour of Asia in a private jet hired from the same company that maintains the air-link between Britain and the Falkland Islands for the British ministry of defence, it has been revealed.
As well as helping to ferry troops and supplies to the British garrison on East Falkland, Gatwick-based Chapman Freeborn also charters aircraft to a company involved in the disputed archipelago’s nascent oil industry, which could possibly land Ms Kirchner in Argentina’s courts.
In 2011 her own government passed a law that forbids authorities in Argentina from contracting services from companies “who in a direct or indirect way” take part in oil exploration around the Falkland Islands.
Deputies from the opposition Radical party have threatened legal action if Ms Kirchner – who only hired the jet to thwart the country’s foreign creditors – does not cancel the contract.
Ms Kirchner is paying Chapman Freeborn €660,000 for the hire of the luxury jet on her tour to Indonesia, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates because she fears Argentina’s foreign creditors might try and impound her presidential plane – a Boeing 757 nicknamed Tango 01.
Her use of the jet stands in stark contrast to her government policy of suing companies prospecting for oil around the Falkland Islands, which are claimed by Argentina. It is also threatening banks and other service companies with ties to the drillers operating in the South Atlantic.
The British foreign office also recently accused Buenos Aires of being behind the harassment of cruise ships visiting the islands as part of its bid to “strangle” the Falklands’ economy. Ms Kirchner’s office did not reveal whether it knew about Chapman Freeborn’s role in the Falklands before hiring one of its aircraft.
The company won the €39 million military contract to manage the air passenger and freight service between Britain and the islands last August.
It is also a regular air service provider to Oil Spill Response Limited, which has given safety training to companies drilling for oil in waters around the islands and is also contracted by the Falklands government to help in the event of an oil spill.
Oil Spill Response Limited said it had most likely not yet used Chapman Freeborn’s services in positioning men or equipment on the Falklands but would possibly do so in the event of a spill there.
The decision to hire the private jet followed the seizure last year of an Argentinian naval training vessel in Ghana at the request of US hedge fund NML Capital which is demanding full repayment on bonds on which Argentina defaulted in 2001.
Ms Kirchner has called NML Capital a “vulture fund” which refused to participate in restructuring deals in 2005 and 2010 that imposed losses of more than 65 per cent on bondholders.
At a rally last week to welcome back Argentina’s naval vessel, Ms Kirchner said she would not yield to “global social predators” that “fly over countries indebted and in default”.
Ghana released the vessel after 70 days following a ruling in Argentina’s favour at an international tribunal in The Hague.