World News

Jet used by Thai crown prince impounded in Munich

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A Boeing 737 used by the Thai crown has been impounded by insolvency administrators in Germany seeking payment of an old debt owed by the Thai government to a collapsed German firm.

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn watches the annual royal ploughing ceremony in Bangkok May 9, 2008. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

Described by the administrators as a “spectacular coup”, the jet, was on Tuesday slapped with forms and stickers from the bailiffs, photographs provided by the administrating firm show.

“We have been seeking payment of more than 30 million euros ($42.9 million) for years and this drastic measure is virtually the last resort,” administrator Werner Schneider said.

The debt goes back more than 20 years to when German firm Dywidag helped build a 26-km toll road between Bangkok and Don Muang airport. Dywidag merged in 2001 with Walter Bau AG, which later became insolvent.

The administrators said the legality of the demand had been confirmed by a court of arbitration.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said Bangkok had relayed its concern to the German government over the incident and asked it to step in to rectify Walter Bau’s “highly inappropriate action”.

“We have learned with great concern that the German company has impounded the plane that is a personal asset of His Majesty Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, using it as collateral in trying to enforce a still pending court decision,” he said.

“The Thai authorities have expressed to the German government its great concern over the incident and has requested it to resolve the problem as soon as possible.”

Thani said 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.

Thailand has been plagued by unrest since the ousting of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 but a new coalition government is currently preparing to take office in Thailand after a landslide election win by the opposition Puea Thai Party.

While King Bhumibol Adulyadej is respected in Thailand, his heir, the 58-year-old crown prince, has yet to command the same popular support and there is widespread disapproval of his lifestyle.

A spokesman for the Bureau of the Royal Household in Thailand declined to comment apart from saying this was a personal matter for the prince.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Vithoon Amorn in Bangkok; Editing by Martin Petty