National Aviation Services (NAS) Afghanistan, part of Menzies Aviation group, has been awarded around USD26 million plus interest in a ruling at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Tribunal in London, following the government of Afghanistan’s “illegal termination” of its concession in 2020.

NAS had been providing ground services at Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat airports since 2013 through a contract awarded after an open tender process, the UK-based global ground handler said in a statement, explaining that “at all times NAS fulfilled its contractual obligations having invested more than USD7mn, bringing in state-of-the-art systems and equipment thus significantly raising the operating standards and service levels within each airport of operation.”

In October 2019, Ariana Afghan Airlines (FG, Kabul) and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation “without justification expropriated NAS’ operations” in the country and replaced it with a new operator, having made “totally unsubstantiated allegations” related to the Menzies Aviation subsidiary.

“They took active and hostile steps to force NAS to surrender its assets and personnel including the sudden imposition of a travel ban on NAS’ expatriate employees,” the group said, as a result of which the unit “suffered considerable losses.”

The group sought retribution in the courts, which involved the arbitration proceedings before the ICC.

“Under the presidency of Mr Ghani, the government of Afghanistan illegally terminated NAS’ contract, expropriated our assets and staff, and took our management team hostage. Governments are not above the law, and we will always take the necessary steps to protect our staff and business interests,” commented Hassan El-Houry, chairman of Menzies Aviation. “I am delighted that justice has finally been served.”

Menzies Aviation has also clashed with the authorities in Iraq, where it abruptly dropped its contracted obligations at Baghdad airport last year in the midst of a dispute with state-owned Iraqi Airways (IA, Baghdad) and the country’s transport ministry.