Influential German news magazine Der Spiegel has some fascinating details about the seizure of the plane used by the Crown Prince in Munich. Key excerpts:
Walter Bau filed for insolvency in 2005. When Schneider went through its books, he found a contract with the Thai government. The firm had acquired a stake in a Thai company building a toll road between Bangkok’s old airport and the city center. But the project was a commercial failure because the Thai government had, in breach of its contractual obligations, built a second, toll-free road, which meant that fewer people than expected used the toll road.
Schneider calculated that the company had lost €100 million as a result of the deal. An international arbitration court ruled in 2009 that Thailand should pay Walter Bau €30 million. But the government hasn’t paid up.
Schneider flew to Bangkok a number of times over the last two years to try to get the money. He met officials in dark suits and officers in gold-braided uniforms who were always friendly, but non-committal. He sent more than a dozen reminder letters. By early 2011, Schneider had had enough. He did what any insolvency administrator does when a debtor won’t pay up — he prepared a seizure of assets and began to scrutinize Thailand’s valuable fleet of state-owned passenger jets.
In early May, an anonymous source in Bangkok sent him a fax containing the flight plan for a VIP jet complete with registration, flight number and name of the pilot. The aircraft was due to arrive in Munich on May 21 from Bangkok and be stationed there until August 8.
Schneider had hired a student to sit on a hill near the airport and make a note of the prince’s flight movements. The future monarch adhered precisely to the flight plan that Schneider had received from his Bangkok source.
All Schneider needed now was a court order.
The first attempt failed. The Munich senior district court decided that it had no jurisdiction in the case. The prince, the court said, wore a uniform and was immune from prosecution. Schneider then took the case to a court in Berlin, and was successful.
But the German government may end up having to get involved, and may even have to pay compensation itself to Walter Bau. A recent report by an expert in insolvency law, Professor Christoph Paulus of Berlin’s Humboldt University, concluded that the German government should be doing everything in its power to make Thailand pay its debt to the insolvent construction firm. That includes “curtailing trade relations” or the “freezing of foreign assets.”
If the government takes no action, “a compensation claim is feasible,” wrote Professor Paulus.
BP: Some comments:
1. The statement by the German insolvency expert helps explain the Germany Embassy press release (ie it was not part of some deeper plot). The German government is trying to protect itself by starting to take “action”.
2. Who sent him the fax? Initially, it sounds important, but the administrator has previously seized government planes before. It is hardly a secret that the Crown Prince travels to Munich so the fax probably assisted in knowing the best time to seize the plane, but once he had someone watching the plane it was just a matter of time.
A 737 of Royal Thai Air Force stands on the tarmac at Munich’s airport Wednesday July 13, 2011. Officials say the plane being used by Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has been impounded in Germany as part of a long-running battle over payments for a building project in Thailand, and Munich airport spokesman Robert Wilhelm said Wednesday July 13, 2011, the Boeing 737 “Royal Flight” was seized on a court order, and is now immobilized and sealed at the airport. (AP Photo/dapd/ Sebastian Widmann)