July 15, 2011 / 9:50 PM / 9 years ago

Thai minister seeks return of prince's jet in Berlin

BERLIN, July 15 (Reuters) - Thailand’s foreign minister met German government officials on Friday in an effort to persuade them to reverse a court’s impounding of a jet owned by the Thai Crown Prince, but Berlin said the matter was in the court’s hands.

German insolvency administrators impounded a Boeing 737 owned by Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn earlier this week in response to a lawsuit by a German company seeking payment of an old debt owed by the government of Thailand.

“This aircraft does not belong to the Thai government but to the Thai prince in person,” Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told reporters, adding that officials from Bangkok had tried to explain this to the court in Munich that impounded the jet.

“I hope that what has happened does not tarnish relations between Thailand and Germany,” said the minister, who travelled with a group of diplomats and lawyers to try to rectify what he called “a great mistake” by German liquidators.

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, formerly Bangkok’s main international airport. Dywidag merged in 2001 with Walter Bau AG, which later became insolvent.

“We have been seeking payment of more than 30 million euros ($43 million) for years and this drastic measure is virtually the last resort,” administrator Werner Schneider said this week.

With Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle abroad, the Thai minister met junior minister Cornelia Pieper, who expressed her “regret for the inconvenience caused to the crown prince” but added in a statement: “The case is now in the hands of the independent German courts.”

(Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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