x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Kuwait Airways to pursue Iraq assets

Kuwait Airways is expanding its attempts to seize assets owned by Iraq in its dispute dating back to the First Gulf War.

Lawyers for Kuwait Airways have vowed to seize international assets owned by the Iraqi government following a recent court ruling in its long-running dispute with Iraqi Airways.

A UK court ruling has granted Kuwait Airways the right to file proceedings against the Iraqi government and ministries of transport and finance as it seeks to recoup assets to satisfy judgments worth almost US$1.3 billion (Dh4.77bn) for the theft of planes and engines during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

"We will very soon be hunting for state of Iraq assets as well as Iraqi Airways assets," said Christopher Gooding, a lawyer representing Kuwait Airways, who added the judgment "expands the range of assets available for enforcement".

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Until recently, a UN mandate has covered Iraq's financial assets to shield its oil and other revenues from billions of dollars in international claims stemming from the era of Saddam Hussein. From July 1, the country will no longer be immune from financial claims, including those made by Kuwait Airways.

The Kuwaiti airline has also been pursuing the case in Canada, where court judgments cleared the way to seize buildings owned by Iraq as well as an aircraft order for regional jets from Bombardier, which is based in Montreal.

Iraq's international assets are "substantial", Mr Gooding said. This includes property and assets related to its oil and gas business, including tankers. "We are actively considering immediate options," he said.

The long-running case forced the Iraq government to announce last year it would dissolve Iraqi Airways to side-step its legal obligations, although the Iraqi carrier continues to operate.

Last week, Hoshiar Zibary, Iraq's foreign minister, and ministers of transport and finance went to Kuwait to discuss the airline dispute and other pending issues related to the First Gulf War, hoping to find a resolution, or at least to "lay a road map to settle them", according to the Kuwait daily Al Watan.

Kuwait Airways, which has made a loss for several years, is in the process of converting into a private-sector shareholding company, depending on how fast the country's sovereign wealth fund organises an auction to offer 26 per cent of the carrier's shares to a strategic investor, Al Watan reported. The Kuwait Investment Authority will hold a 24 per cent stake in the new company, while the remaining 50 per cent will be offered for public subscription.

* additional reporting by Ivan Gale

halsayegh@thenational.ae