King Mswati III of Swaziland is set to buy a second private jet, confidential documents have confirmed.
The deal is expected to be completed this month (April 2015), but the plane will be taken for refits and upgrades and might not be ready to fly for another year.
The plane is an Airbus A340 with the serial number MSN 257. It was last operated by Air Blue of Pakistan, but has been stored since February 2014.
The Airbus has an insured value of US$15 million, but the insured value is expected to rise to at least US$30 million once refurbishments have been completed.
The Airbus is at least 16 years old and its first flight was registered on 28 January 1999. It was operated by Air Canada from 1999 to 2002. From 2002 to 2008 it was operated by Air Jamaica and from 2008 to 2012 by Turkish Airlines. Air Blue operated the plane from 2012 and it has been stored under the registration number N281AT since February 2014.
Luftfahrt-Versicherungslosungen AG of Zurich, Switzerland, a specialist aviation brokerage company, was tasked with finding insurance cover for the aircraft. It reported the ‘agreed value’ of the plane to be US$15 million. It added, ‘Agreed value at inception will be US$15 million increasing to US$30 million during completion work over the next 11 to 12 months.’
Industry insiders say the refurbishment costs could be more than anticipated by Luftfahrt-Versicherungslosungen, depending on the degree of luxury the King demands. Plans are already being drawn up to build a state room, a lounge and a royal lavatory on the aircraft. Similar planes with ‘VIP’ upgrades of their interior are being offered for sale on the Internet for US$44 million.
Luftfahrt-Versicherungslosungen said, ‘The aircraft will be undergoing completion and refit work which will be done by either Avinor Canada or EAS France.’
It added, ‘The current owner of the aircraft is ILFC [a global aircraft leasing company]. The aircraft is in Phoenix Arizona and the ferry flight [taking the plane from the seller to the purchaser] will be from Phoenix to Canada. Thereafter the aircraft will be purchased by the King of Swaziland.
‘The serial number is MSN257. The aircraft is currently on the N register [registered in the United States] but will be re-registered to T7 (San Marino) or Kingdom of Swaziland. After completion the aircraft will be used for private and industrial aid only.
‘The inception date is anticipated to be the 15 April .’
King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, already owns a modified McDonnel Douglas DC-9-87 jet, also known as an MD-87. It cost US$9.5 million in 2012 and at least another US$4.1 million was spent on refurbishments before the King took delivery.
This jet is at present held by a court in Canada as part of a business dispute relating to alleged unpaid debts amounting to US$3.5 million for the 2012 refurbishment. It is not known if the King intends to keep this jet once he takes delivery of the Airbus.
King Mswati has a global reputation for living a lavish lifestyle with fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars and a Rolls Royce. The King has 13 palaces and he, his family, and their entourage take expensive international trips.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of his 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, with incomes of less than US$2 per day, three in ten are so hungry they are medically diagnosed as malnourished and the kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.
In 2014, more than 3,000 cases of diarrhoea were reported in the kingdom. More than 40 children died and at least another 500 were hospitalised. Swazi Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane said at the time Swaziland could not treat the children with drugs that were readily available on the international market because of budget constraints.
King Mswati is also at the centre of a US$141 million arbitration dispute after it was claimed in 2014 his appointees deliberately worked to make the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine in Swaziland fail so the King would not have to repay a US$10 million loan he had been paid by the company.
At the time mine operations began in 2012 it was predicted the King would eventually make US$100 million from the mine.
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