September 5, 2016 / 1:50 PM / 3 years ago

Afghan carrier Safi Airways grounded over debts

KABUL, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s largest private airline has been forced to suspend operations after it failed to clear outstanding debt and taxes.

The Afghan civil aviation authority ordered Safi Airways on Sunday to pay 1.15 billion Afghani ($1.7 million) before it can regain permission to resume services and sell tickets.

“The finance ministry decided to suspend Safi Airways activities in Afghanistan,” the Independent Directorate of Civil Aviation said. It added that authorities can also stop the company’s executives from travelling outside Afghanistan.

The finance ministry has allowed the tax office to seek court approval to confiscate and sell Safi Airways property if it fails to meet the payment deadline.

The airline, which was founded in 2006, currently flies three domestic and four international routes. It is the country’s second-largest airline after national carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines.

Safi Airways transports many expatriates and benefits from the presence of non-governmental organisations, private security companies and other foreign entities in Afghanistan.

Last year, the company said it was looking to add 10 to 20 planes in three to five years to expand business in Iran, Kuwait and Kazakhstan.

The company was not immediately reachable for a comment. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni, writing by Rupam Jain, editing by Larry King)

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