Lawyers working for Kuwait attempted to confiscate the first Iraqi Airways plane to land in London in 20 years over a dispute dating back to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of the oil-rich Gulf state, the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation said Thursday.
Kuwait is demanding reparations of $1.2 billion from Iraqi Airways for the alleged theft of 10 airplanes and millions of dollars worth of spare parts during the invasion and seven-month occupation.
Iraq says it has repeatedly called for talks over the case and to solve it in a “friendly way,” but the Kuwaitis have not responded.
According to the statement, the lawyers attempted to confiscate the airplane that made the flight, but were not able to when it turned out to be chartered from a Swedish company and not owned by Iraqi Airways.
Christopher Gooding, a lawyer representing Kuwait Airways in the dispute, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press the carrier served a court order on Iraqi Airways related to past English court rulings requiring it to pay $1.2 billion to Kuwait.
He said the order served this week calls for the freezing of Iraqi Airways’ worldwide assets, and requires the carrier’s director general to provide a statement of those assets and remain within the court’s jurisdiction in order to make the affidavit.
Gooding said Iraqi Airways has done “absolutely nothing” in response to the court order.
“The latest statement by the Iraqi Ministry of Transport lacks one simple statement — that (it) intends to meet its obligations,” he said.
The Iraqi ministry said the director general of Iraqi Airways, Kifah Jabar Hassan, who was on the flight, had his passport confiscated and is forced to remain in Britain now pending legal developments.
“Basically Iraqi Airways have to turn up with an affidavit of their assets worldwide. Then we’ll wish him godspeed and he’ll be on his way,” Gooding said, referring to Hassan.
The case is still being played out in Britain and has been described as the longest running commercial case in the history of British courts.
Kuwait has repeatedly attempted to seize airplanes purchased by Iraq as compensation, most recently in 2008, when it secured a court order to take 10 planes ordered by Iraqi Airways from Canada’s Bombardier. The case is on appeal.
“The ministry is surprised by the escalating and provocative behavior taken by the Kuwaiti authorities, insisting on harassing and embarrassing Iraqis wherever they attempt to open a window to the outside world,” the Iraqi statement said.