The official airplane of the king of Swaziland Mswati III has been impounded in Canada for the second time due to a debt dispute, BBC reported on Thursday, May 18.
Mswati’s former business partner, Singaporean entrepreneur Shanmuga Rethenam, had the plane detained through Canadian courts in a bid to freeze the king’s assets and reclaim $8 million (KSh807 million) he says the Swaziland royal owes him.
Rethenam says he sold Mswati the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 in 2010 and then paid $6.5 million (KSh656 million) for refurbishing and refinancing it.
King Mswati however denies owing Rethenam any money. When first announcing the arrival of the lavishly outfitted plane to the Swazi public, the king’s spokesman described it as a gift.
In 2015, Rethenam had the plane impounded for four months in Canada until the king agreed to surrender $3.5 million (KSh353 million).
Reuters reports that Rethenam – this time round – has obtained what he calls a “worldwide freezing order” from a judge in the British Virgin Islands, where his aviation firm is registered.
The plane is being held in Ontario, where it was sent for service.
Back in Swaziland, a prosecutor has charged Rethenam with misappropriating funds related to a Swazi mining venture, reports Quartz.
Rethenam has been ordered to appear in the Swazi High Court by June 30. Prosecutors said the charges have nothing to do with the debt dispute.
The Singaporean entrepreneur and the Swazi king were cronies before falling out.
Court papers revealed that Rethenam referred to the king as “HMK” (His Majesty, the King) and Swazi newspapers report that Rethenam was known locally as just “Shan.” The two fell out over an iron-ore mining venture from 2011 to 2014.
A dispute led to the mine’s liquidation and 700 employees losing their jobs.