As news leaks that King Mswati III of Swaziland is about to get a second private jet at a cost of at least US$30 million, there is still a mystery about who paid for the jet he already has.
Confidential documents show that the King’s own company Inchatsavane paid the US$9.5 million cost of the McDonnel Douglas McDonnell Douglas DC-9-87 (also known as an MD-87). Later, a further US$4.1 million was spent on refurbishing the plane.
At the time of the purchase in 2012, the Swazi Government maintained that the plane was a gift to the King from ‘development partners’.
The Swaziland Government’s official spokesperson Percy Simelane categorically denied that public money had been used to purchase the King’s plane. He said, ‘A thousand times No’, when asked by the BBC if public money was involved. Simelane claimed the jet was given to the King by well-wishers.
Simelane said the development partners were, ‘people already involved in the social and economic development of the country’.
Now, confidential papers never made public before reveal some of the background to the plane’s purchase.
The Sale and Purchase Agreement for the plane dated 18 April 2012 stated the purchaser as Inchatsavane Company (Pty) Ltd. The agreement describes Inchatsavane as a ‘limited company formed under the law of Swaziland under certification of incorporation No 581 of 2010.’ The company’s office address is given as ‘1st Floor, Ellerines Building, Swazi Plaza, [Mbabane], Swaziland.’
King Mswati’s name appears on the document as ‘sole shareholder / owner’ of the company.
The seller is given as Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, National Association, ‘not in its individual capacity but solely as owner trustee’.
A Bank of America Wire Transfer dated 26 April 2012, shows US$9.5 million dollars was transferred from the account of ‘His Majesty King Mswati III’, bank account number 0240037517401, at the Standard Bank Swaziland Ltd, Stanbic House, Swazi Plaza, Mbabane, Swaziland.
The money was transferred to McAfee and Taft escrow account in the United States. An ‘escrow’ account is a bank account for keeping money that is the property of others.
Under US law funds wired to an escrow account must come directly from the purchaser and not a parent, subsidiary, related company, officer, governor or director. King Mswati personally signed the escrow agreement.
Seven days earlier, on 19 April 2012, US$10 million had been deposited into the account of ‘His Majesty’, bank account number 0240037517401. The money came from Salgaocar Swaziland Pty Ltd, bank account number 0240047831101, at the Standard Bank, Mbabane branch.
Salgaocar had months earlier in June 2011 been granted a licence by King Mswati to mine iron ore at Ngwenya. King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, controls all mining and mineral rights in his kingdom.
SG Iron Ore Mining (PTY) Ltd was formed to run the mining business. Southern Africa Resources Ltd (SARL) held a 50 percent stake in SG Iron. The Swaziland Government held 25 percent of the shares and the King personally held 25 percent ‘in trust for the nation.’
Less than six months after operations began, King Mswati, through his representative Sihle Dlamini, asked for and received an advanced payment of US$10 million on the King’s future dividend. This was agreed at a meeting of the Board of Directors of Salgaocar Swaziland held in Mbabane, Swaziland, on 16 April 2012. The money was to be repaid from future dividends payable to the King.
There was no public announcement made that the King received the money which he held ‘in trust for the nation’ and it is not known how he spent it.
Shanmuga Rethenam (popularly known as Shan), the chairman of Salgaocar Swaziland, told Swazi Media Commentary in an email dated 31 March 2015 that neither Salgaocar nor any of his companies had donated the aircraft.
Shan was however involved through a company called SG Air in paying for the upgrades to the plane. This cost at least US$4.1 million. SG Air paid the bills on behalf of the King’s company, Inchatsavane. SG Air expected Inchatsavane to repay the money it spent, but allegedly this did not happen. This is now the subject of a court dispute in Canada. The King’s plane has been attached by the court in the dispute over unpaid debts.
In April 2012 it was reported in the South African media that the money for the plane had come from Kuwait. Reports quoted ‘Prince Omari Dlamini’, described as a ‘nephew’ of King Mswati, saying the plane was a gift from Kuwait and it was not bought out of public funds.
Later, the Swazi Government issued a statement saying, ‘It is true that His Majesty the King received a gift in the form of a Mcdonnell DC-9 Aircraft for his and the Queen Mother’s travels abroad on engagement on national interest.
‘It is also true that the sponsors of this magnificent gift, exercising their rights, elected to remain anonymous.
‘It is not true that the Kuwait Government or countries and companies mentioned in the South Africa media purchased the aircraft for His Majesty the King or contributed in any form whatsoever towards this present.’
It added, ‘The Royal Household, Government and the People of Swaziland do not know and have nothing to do with the so-called Prince Omari Dlamini who has been quoted extensively by the South African media as having said the aircraft is a gift from Kuwait.’
Now, in April 2015, King Mswati is to buy an Airbus A340, with an initial insured value of US$15 million. The insurance value rises to US$30 million after refurbishments expected to take 11 months are completed.
As in 2012, the source of the funding has not been revealed to the King’s 1.3 million subjects. Seven in ten of them 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.
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