The Supreme Economic Court of Tajikistan has upheld a ruling in favour of Lithuanian lessor Skyroad Leasing against cash-strapped and grounded Tajik Air (7J, Dushanbe), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, reported on July 23.

The judgement upheld a verdict at Dushanbe Economic Court that ordered the state-owned carrier in 2018 to pay an alleged outstanding debt of USD20 million to the lessor, which had itself followed a Vilnius Commercial Arbitration Court ruling to that effect in April 2018.

“By order of Dushanbe Economic Court, the foreign court’s decision has been recognised and enforced. However, due to certain difficulties, the foreign court’s decision will be suspended until mid-August 2021,” proclaimed the judge, Bakhtiyor Naimzoda, on July 22.

Tajik Air, which has been experiencing economic difficulties for years and is reportedly unable to pay its debts without government assistance, has consistently said it does not agree with the claim. It cites a subsequent Dushanbe City Court ruling in April 2019 that did not recognise the Vilnius court’s decision, but the Supreme Economic Court later requested a review of that ruling.

An official who did not want to be named explained to Radio Ozodi that “there were some cases of misapplication of the procedural rules, so the case was remanded and reconsidered.”

Skyroad Leasing, known as AviaAM B03 until 2014 and now headquartered in Cyprus as AviaAM Leasing, part of Lithuania’s Avia Solutions Group, had dry-leased two Boeing aircraft to the Tajik airline from 2009, but the companies clashed in 2013 over outstanding payments and interest.

The Lithuanian counsel for Skyroad/AviaAM is Paulius Docka of the law firm Primus-Derling in Vilnius. He told Radio Ozodi that the Tajik government would be held accountable if Tajik Air failed to repay its debt.

“In 2013, we appealed to the arbitral tribunal. The decision was made in 2014, which is well known, because the arbitral tribunal has many stages. The final stage is to bring the foreign state to justice,” he said.

In January 2019, Tajik Air grounded all of its aircraft (currently one each of a B737-300, B737-400, B757-200, B767-300, and an MA-60, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module), furloughed most of its staff, and suspended all flights. Since then, it has been in the process of a government-led restructuring.

Tajik Air and AviaAM were not immediately available for comment.