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Ladi Taiwo

Ladi Taiwo

For the second time in two years, the official plane of Swaziliand's King Mswati III has been detained in Canada over a debt dispute.

Singapore entrepreneur Shanmuga Rethenam, a former business ally of Mswati had the plane grounded through Canadian courts in his latest bid to freeze the king’s foreign assets as he tries to claim nearly $8 million he claimed he’s being owed.

Swaziland government spokesman Percy Simelane denied that the king owed any money and said he could not comment further as the matter was in court.

On 5 May, a Toronto court ordered Mswati’s McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 to be confined to the Canadian province of Ontario, where it was being serviced by a local firm, according to legal files.

Rethenam said he sold Mswati the plane in 2010 and then paid about $6.5m for modifications and refinancing.

Last year, a similar action yielded $305m payment to Rethenam by Mswati. This time, Rethenam secured a “worldwide freezing order” from a judge in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which ordered some of Mswati’s foreign assets frozen until it makes a decision on Rethenam’s claim.

Rethenam has been charged with misappropriating funds while he operated a Swazi mining venture with Mswati between 2011 and 2014. He is due to report to the Swazi High Court by 30 June for a pre-trial conference on charges unrelated to Rethenam’s debt dispute with the king.

Rethenam however, thinks otherwise, he said in an interview that the timing of the fraud, theft and tax evasion charges, laid two days before the plane grounding, was suspicious and he believed they were being used to “retaliate” against him.

Swaziland is one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies.

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