Air Moldova plane ordered to stay in Dublin amid dispute over €4.2m award

Order was sought in the High Court by Romanian aircraft leasing firm Just-US Air Srl

The High Court has made orders preventing a passenger jet leaving Dublin airport. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The High Court has made orders preventing a passenger jet leaving Dublin airport. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The High Court has made orders preventing a passenger jet leaving Dublin airport.

The orders concern a Moldovan Air Airbus A319 aircraft that arrived late on Tuesday night and was due to return to Chisinau International Airport in Moldova.

Some 20 passengers, plus the aircraft’s crew, are stranded here, as a result of the orders, granted on foot of a €4.2 million arbitration award.

That award was made in favour of a Romanian aircraft leasing firm, Just-US Air Srl, against Compania Aeriana “Air Moldova” Srl.

The court heard the airline had assets seized by Moldova’s Agency for the recovery of Criminal Assets in 2019 as part of an investigation into alleged criminal activity, including money laundering.

Air Moldova was the State-owned national airline of Moldova until it was privatised in 2018.

Represented by Martin Hayden SC and Martin Canny BL, Just-Srl claims it obtained an internationally-recognised final and binding award of €4.2 million from a Romanian arbitrator following an arbitration regarding lease of an aircraft.

Counsel said the award has not been paid and it has sought to enforce the arbitration against Air Moldova in this jurisdiction, where the airline has a significant asset, the Airbus aircraft, which operates a passenger and limited cargo service between Moldova and Ireland.

Freezing orders

The applicant was seeking the freezing orders against the aircraft because it fears the airline may seek to remove that asset from here and put it beyond the reach of his client, counsel said.

It had concerns arising from several media reports concerning the Moldovan authority’s criminal investigation into the airline and a €35 million asset seizure, which arose after the airline’s privatisation.

The applicant has further concerns about reports that creditors of the airline have not been paid and that another aircraft of the defendant’s was detained in Turkey over alleged failure to pay a $2 million fuel bill, he said.

The airline’s owners have, in media reports, denied any wrongdoing and say the investigations have not impacted on its commercial activity.

The orders preventing the aircraft leaving Dublin airport were granted on an ex-parte basis last week by Mr Justice David Barniville.

The media was prevented, by court order, from reporting the matter until the aircraft had been secured and the court documents were served on relevant parties, including the aircraft’s captain.

When the case returned before the court on Wednesday, the judge lifted the reporting ban, and said the orders previously granted should remain in place.

In adjourning the case, the judge praised the applicant’s solicitors Crowley Millar, for providing assistance to passengers and crew affected by the orders.

The applicant is also seeking permission to appoint a receiver over the aircraft, which it says has been leased by another entity to Air Moldova.

The case returns before the court later this month.