German court wants $28 mln to free Thai prince's jet

FRANKFURT, July 20 Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:17am EDT

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FRANKFURT, July 20 (Reuters) - A German court on Wednesday ruled Thailand's Crown prince would have to pay a 20 million euro deposit ($28.40 million) for the return of his plane, impounded during a long running commercial dispute.

German insolvency officials seized the Boeing 737 last week to force the Thai government to repay a debt linked to a Bangkok road construction project.

The Thai government called the seizure "a great mistake", and sent a delegation to Berlin to explain the jet belonged to the prince, not the government.

The Landshut court in Bavaria said in a statement on Wednesday the 20 million figure was based on the estimated value of the plane.

It said a deposit was necessary as it had not yet decided on the ownership of the plane.

Insolvency administrators have been trying to retrieve 30 million euros from the Thai government on behalf of a defunct German construction company.

The dispute goes back more than 20 years to when German company Dywidag helped build a 26 km (15 mile) toll road to Don Muang airport, formerly Bangkok's main international airport.

The administrators said the Thai government repeatedly broke the contract and that an arbitration court had established in 2009 the validity of the claim from Walter Bau, which merged with Dywidag.

A spokesman for the Thai foreign ministry said last week Walter Bau's case against the Thai government had not reached its final conclusion as its lawyers were still in the process of appealing in a court in New York. (Reporting by Jens Hack and Victoria Bryan) ($1=.7043 Euro)

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