Dublin-based CDB latest aircraft lessor to sue over planes trapped in Russia

Affiliate of China Development Bank takes High Court case against 18 insurers in Dublin

Dublin-based CDB Aviation has become the latest aircraft leasing company to take legal action in Dublin against its insurers over aircraft lost in Russia in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

The company, an affiliate of state-owned China Development Bank, along with nine associated companies have issued legal proceedings against 18 insurance companies, including Lloyds of London, Chubb European Group, Swiss Re and Berkshire Hathaway European Insurance.

This is the third set of legal proceedings to be taken by a Dublin-based lessor against a raft of major insurers over leased aircraft seized and re-registered in Russia in the wake of the war.

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A spokesman for CDB Aviation declined to comment on its legal proceedings, which were filed in the High Court on Tuesday. The Irish Times has sought comment from some of the insurers being sued by the company, though they have declined to comment on other similar actions.

Avolon and BOC Aviation (Ireland), the largest aircraft leasing company in Asia, have both issued separate legal proceedings against a host of insurers over their lost aircraft.

In August CDB Aviation booked a $108 million (€104 million) loss in the first half of this year on nine aircraft still trapped in Russia.

The company reduced its exposure to Russia earlier this year to between 3 and 4 per cent of total net book value. It originally had 15 planes in Russia, or about 6 per cent of its fleet, but was able to recover some planes to reduce its exposure.

Aircraft seized in the wake of the invasion has kick-started litigation in several jurisdictions with at least eight legal actions being taken against more than 35 insurers in Ireland, the UK and the US over aircraft worth an estimated $5 billion (€4.8 billion).

Dublin is a major aircraft leasing capital and Irish lessors were among the first companies to face losses over the war after the Russian authorities re-registered foreign-owned aircraft to domestic airlines and prevented them flying international to avoid their recovery by their owners.

The leasing companies have begun pursuing legal claims arising from multibillion euro losses over the loss of more than 400 leased aircraft worth almost €10 billion.

Moscow blocked aircraft from leaving the country in what the industry viewed as retaliatory action after Western countries sanctioned Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Dublin-based AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft leasing company, has taken the biggest legal claim against insurers in a $3.5 billion case taken in London over more than 100 lost aircraft.

Two other Irish-based companies Avolon, the world’s second largest aircraft lessor, and BOC Aviation, the largest aircraft leasing company in Asia, issued legal proceedings in Dublin at the start of this month.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent