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Thai crown prince's plane seized at Munich airport in debt dispute

The Local · 13 Jul 2011, 15:17

Published: 13 Jul 2011 15:17 GMT+02:00

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The plane was seized Tuesday as part of a long-running dispute in which Werner Schneider, the insolvency administrator for the Walter Bau construction group, is demanding more than €30 million from the Thai government.

The Walter Bau group went under in 2005 and was later partly acquired by an Austrian company.

“We in the insolvency of Walter Bau AG have been trying for many years to enforce a legitimate demand of more than €30 million and this drastic measure is virtually the last resort,” Schneider said, explaining that courts have found the move to be legal.

The dispute stretches back more than 20 years, to when the German construction firm Dywidag helped build a 26-kilometre road between Bangkok and the airport for which payment was allegedly never received. Dywidag merged with Walter Bau in 2001.

The Thai government has repeatedly refused to respond to the claim and attempts by the German government to recover the funds were unsuccessful, Schneider said.

The exact value of the seized jet is unclear. But Boeing’s list prices for various 737 models range from €40 million to €61 million. It is owned by Thailand's airforce but is used by the revered Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn - and sometimes flown by the prince himself.

A spokesman for Munich’s airport would not comment on the situation, other than to say that officials will accommodate the aircraft if it needs to remain for a while.

Story continues below…

This was not the first time something like this had happened, he added.

The Local/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:57 July 13, 2011 by Englishted
Now grab all the Irish Guinness and all the Greek cheese to pay back their E.U. loans.I'm looking forward to all the pizza that will be coming soon.
19:07 July 13, 2011 by Gretl
Hope the US pays its bills on time. It would be embarrassing to lose Air Force One. Imagine having to fly into a neighboring country and taking ground transportation so that your plane isn't seized as collateral!
22:40 July 13, 2011 by adipk
Its funnyyy
08:35 July 14, 2011 by german-guardian
@ Englishted,

read the article closely, the plane was seized because it was controlled by Thiland's crown price. I think the crown prince has to be made responsible for paying up its debts if it has it. So it is not just any normal passanger plane.
09:07 July 14, 2011 by oldMoslin
I simply not getting, how can it be justified by seizing the asset of someone?

It seems to be almost robbery. The plane landed with its passenger for some purpose, and that was a trap for the plane owner.

Was there no rule other than seizing (stealing/robberying) the plane?

Can these deeds be called civilized?
09:42 July 14, 2011 by bal00
What's so difficult to understand?

If someone (be it a person, a company or a government) does not pay his/its bills, the creditor can - after going through a number of legal steps - have the assets of the debtor seized.

Seems perfectly civilized to me.
10:49 July 14, 2011 by oldMoslin
@bal00 "If someone (be it a person, a company or a government) does not pay his/its bills, the creditor can - after going through a number of legal steps - have the assets of the debtor seized."

In a legal process the offender is given warnings that he has to pay some charges via written mail. Here I did not see that, if the crown prince has to do something with it or not, he might have come to visit Germany and his plane is seized (looted). It was a surprise, does not seem to be civilized to me, like a plane crashed in a jungle in Africa, you are being looted by the African tribes as they can say you did not pay your debs your forefather has taken minerals and ruled etc.

There are international courts and civilized manners to do those. Plane seizing is kind of looting or robbery to me.
11:46 July 14, 2011 by zmoke
Yeah, hijacking a plane resolves this... right.

For some reason this does not surprise me in the redneck Germany.

Next Thailand keeps couple Luftwaffe planes grounded in Bangkok and its a tie???
12:04 July 14, 2011 by oldMoslin
@zmoke; i simply agree with you. It is a kind of hijacking.

It is a kind of mentality that a civilized country should not have.

As I could not bet my bills paid I will seize anything whenever I get a chance...really ashamed of it.
12:27 July 14, 2011 by Englishted
If the plane is owned by the Thai government and the Prince is a representative of the Thai government ,then diplomatic immunity should apply.

german-guardian you are typical ,no sense of humour and no spell-check.
13:20 July 14, 2011 by Sven75
Ok, please tell me, where this is any different than an average foreclosure:

1) The state of Thailand owes money to a german company.

2) Thailand is not willing to pay their bills.

3) The state of Thailand owns a plane that lands in germany. (Note that it is NOT owned by the crown prince, a thai citirzens etc. but by the state!)

4) The german company manages to get a court ruling that allows them to seize that plane in lieu of payment.

It's unusual on that scale, yes. But I can't see any robbery taking place.

Where exactly is the difference to seizing a car from someone who doesn't pay their bills?
14:38 July 14, 2011 by oldMoslin
1) The state of Thailand owes money to a german company.

YES so ?

2) Thailand is not willing to pay their bills.

Yes, and is there something call international court? When that company loaned the money to the Thai people, did they sign the contract, did they say they have to respect the german courts? were they received the mails warning from the court properly?

So someone may be from the royal family coming to visit in that plane and there plane will be seized. So is it not like a polite robbery ( where robbers are under the masks of law?)

3) The state of Thailand owns a plane that lands in germany. (Note that it is NOT owned by the crown prince, a thai citirzens etc. but by the state!)

So it lands and you find the hunt and hunt it down ? huh !

4) The german company manages to get a court ruling that allows them to seize that plane in lieu of payment.

"manages" the authority and managers help to loot/seize that plane right?
16:22 July 14, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Ok let's try this.

You give me 30 mil EUR in services & goods. I will not pay. Your company goes bankrupt as a result. Then I will land my 747 on your lawn. After, we'll talk again about whether you consider seizing it to be an outrage.

Property seizure to settle private debt is a common practice in German law. If the contract was signed with the provision of being governed by German law, they had every right to seize the property to cover the debt.
16:38 July 14, 2011 by catjones
If I fail to make car payments, the dealership can repo the car, but not take my couch....except in germany.
18:29 July 14, 2011 by oldMoslin

If you cannot pay my 30 mil Euro I am not going to seize your neither your Sister concerns nor your country man's plane!

I will file cases against international courts and bring you to justice and gets my bill paid. That is the difference between a jungle law and a civilized law.

If this is the mentality of grabbing what I can I am sorry I cannot measure you as civilized. And this seizing is robbery or looting nothing less than that. Difference is looters and dacoits the do the worse things in the dark, but here you are doing it under the law.
18:48 July 14, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

It's not "the man's plane". The plane belongs to the Kingdom of Thailand. And, an international court can't collect jacksh*t from a sovereign body if they simply refuse to pay. They didn't grab "whatever they can"; they grabbed what they have a right to.

You can consider me civilized or not; I really don't care.
18:53 July 14, 2011 by JohnC.MurphyThailand
It is out in the public now, but there's maybe a case that after plane seizure if the German government/airport authority/insolvency administrators had discussed matters behind closed doors - they may have had more success.

Strong arguments for either side by other posters above, rightly or wrongly the fact of the matter: a plane owned by the airforce of Thailand has been seized by another nation - so what is really interesting - is what happens next?

Does the Crown Prince simply make a call to settle this outstanding amount? Clearly as son of the World's richest monarch (allegedly) paying €30 M to cover this debt can not be much of a headache. But what message would this give other nations and/or "groups/organisations with malicious intent"? "Easy Thailand"? Coupled with the issue that pointing out someone's (or nation's) mistakes openly in front of peers or strangers is a serious "loss of face" concern for Asian people and countries - settling the bill would only confirm that mistake.

Alternatively save face, deny, not pay and loose the plane! Again no real headache financially but doesn't really aid any ongoing German-Thai business relationships at private or government level nor would it be a very good advert for the Board of Investment in Thailand to other nations! This would be the situation if Thailand walked away or attempted to drag this through the court system.

However, in my opinion (and experience) I do believe the loan will be repaid either immediately or via an elaborate repayment schedule, the plane will be released immediately, the blame will be placed on a now dissolved government and there will be (for sure) a massive public apology made by the German government to the Crown Prince and the people of Thailand.

Let's see.
19:24 July 14, 2011 by Thai_resident
This serves the Thais right. They constantly try to cheat people and most of the time get away with it. Interesting that these news haven't made their way to Thailand yet. No word about this in any of the media here. It's a big face loss. Hopefully they learn from this and start honoring contracts a bit more. I've taken the tollway the German company built. It's there. I've seen it with my own eyes. I wouldn't be surprised though if the Thai government claimed it was never build and that's why they aren't paying. The majority here lives in denial about a lot of things so this is quite a plausible explanation.

I suggest everyone disagreeing with the seizure of the plane should spare a thought for the company owners who lost their money and the workers who lost their jobs as a consequence of the non payment and their families. They may feel that at least some justice has been done.
20:08 July 14, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
The Thai Prince owed money to a German company, it has been disputed for 20 years, and then he flies to Germany? What was he thinking? You don't stop over at your dealers house if you owe him for drugs (just an analogy). The German company had enough, went through legitimate channels, and took that guy's property in lieu of cash. Seems reasonable to me. By the way, what was that Thai Prince doing in Germany in the first place?
22:59 July 14, 2011 by german-guardian
@ jack Kerouac

Thanks man

great explanation
01:36 July 15, 2011 by rwk
First of all, in a monarchy, the prince is the state, so taking a plane belonging to him is the same as taking it from the state. Secondly, I am sure that this construction contract was not written under Thai law, but under German. Therefore, a German court has jurisdiction. If the courts have ruled against Thailand, then the Thai government must pay. Just like the Greeks may have to, if contracts are written under German law. But I doubt those are.

In any case, it sounds to me like the seizure was justified. But I can't be 100% sure because I don't know the details of the case and am not a lawyer or judge.
08:14 July 15, 2011 by Kobphong Neowakul
In Thailand, The Crown Prince is not the State and he is under the law as everyone else. The fact is that the Thai AirForce has given him this aircraft and therefore, the aircraft is his private property. The German company should take this matter to the World Court instead using the Local or German court to rule over this case. For the sake of the relationship, I would like to see this matter to be solved internationaly.
08:58 July 15, 2011 by oldMoslin
@Kobphong Neowakul : I agree with you.

If that german company had a chance they would have kidnapped the royal family perhaps, and the german court might have said as they did not pay the loan so they have a right to do this and keep these royals as kidnapping vistims.

Probably it is also possible in this very ""Civilized!?" country !
14:28 July 15, 2011 by thaiexpert
This is all legal. Very good, german government, very good, give them back, what they do to the foreigners in Thailand.

Who thinks on the company, the many people loose their jobs. The Thais think they can do what they want and not follow any rules, this "proud" nationalist people. It would be no problem for the richest monarch for pay this bill, but the Thais bullshit alltimes foreigners (farangs)
15:39 July 15, 2011 by timjackelton
I think Thailand has finally discovered, there is a big world out there and they can't do as they please like they do in their own country, regardless of who owns the plane. Germany is a fair country, (I am not German) but it appears this issue has been going on for 20 years and people lost their jobs because of Thailand's non payment of the contract.

Time to pay up Thailand and stop the childishness. I say Germany should keep the aircraft until such time the cheque is cleared through a German bank.

If it was the other way around the Thais would be screaming blue murder. Time for Thailand to grow up and join the real world.
16:24 July 15, 2011 by locallocal
as there has been mentioned on and on to please international courts to resolve that economic "deal", I should pronounce that "this" has been done, of course, years ago.. similar to the philippine case with "fraport", it is very difficult to consider that the law machine is doing all. In philippines laws even can be made to ease own statements on law. So: "Ein internationales Schiedsgericht in Genf bestätigte Mitte 2009 die Forderung und legte deren Höhe fest. Thailand zahlte weiterhin nicht" = an internatinal court in Geneva (switzerland) judged in favour of the germans. 2 Years ago..
16:12 July 17, 2011 by Spector
Two problems with this:

1) The Thai Royal family are NOT part of the government, they frequently represent the nation (normally at the request of the government) but they have been separate from the government since 1932 (this is spelled out in the Thai Constitution) and

2) it is my understanding that the plane was given to the Crown Prince about three years ago

This means that private property was seized to pay a public debt. The court order was that the Thai government owed the money not the Thai monarchy (who are prohibited from getting involved with running the country by their constitution).
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