Two Russian planes caught up in a legal battle with the Swiss import-export business, Noga, have taken off from the Le Bourget air show in France, according to the Russian space agency, Rosaviakosmos. Bailiffs acting on Noga's behalf had tried to seize the jets at the Paris show.This content was published on June 22, 2001 - 19:15
"It was decided before the start of the show that the aircraft would return to Moscow on Friday at that hour," said a Rosaviakosmos spokesman, Konstantin Kreidenko.
Earlier, bailiffs had obtained a court injunction to impound a Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft as well as a MiG attack plane, which were on display at the show, on Friday. The Sukhoi-30 had been due to take part in demonstration flights later in the day.
Noga said the move was an attempt to recover some of the millions of dollars owed to it by Moscow.
"It's true we asked for this seizure," said Noga's managing director, Nessim Gaon. "The Russian state must pay what it owes us."
Gaon said his firm was owed a total of between $2.4 and $3 billion (SFr4.3 and SFr5.3 billion) by the Russian government. The figure includes $63 million, which Noga claims it is due in back payments for oil-for-food deals agreed in the early 1990s.
The event's organisers said they were baffled by the action of French justice officials.
"We don't understand why this has been done against exhibitors at the show when the real target is the Russian government," a spokesman said.
The Sukhoi design bureau in Moscow said it had been informed about what had happened. "We are aware of the incident," a spokesman said, adding: "What exactly this company's claims towards us are is not clear."
It is the second time Noga has attempted to seize Russian assets. Last year it had the tall ship, Sedov, impounded by French officials. A French court later ordered the ship's release and imposed a fine on Noga.
Russian officials condemned Noga's latest action, which comes just a few days before the French president, Jacques Chirac, is due to visit Moscow.
"This is not the best step ahead of the visit," Alexei Violin, a key aide to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Russia's Interfax news agency. "The people responsible made the maximum effort to ensure Chirac's talks in Russia would be neither easy nor agreeable."
But the French government was quick to distance itself from the row, which it said was commercial in nature. "France has no part in this dispute," the foreign ministry said.
swissinfo with agencies
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