ECAIR - Equatorial Congo Airlines (Brazzaville) says the seizure of one of its two B757-200s, HB-JJE (msn 27219), at Paris CDG on Saturday, April 11, is an 'illegal' act adding that it intends to seek damages.

According to the La Lettre du Continent magazine, Congolese businessman François Odzali successfully obtained a Paris court ruling claiming the Congolese government, as owners of the airline, still owed him EUR70 million (USD76.3 million) for the destruction of an industrial complex during the Republic of Congo's civil war in 1997 and for non-payment of electrification work undertaken for the subsequent government.

Odzali's case is complicated by the fact that he chaired the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Trade in Brazzaville under then president Pascal Lissouba. Lissouba was ousted by Denis Sassou Nguesso in 1997. But, while he won his case in the Congolese courts, Odzali never received any restitution from the government leading to him pursuing his claims in France.

For its part, ECAir says the seizure is illegal as it, as an airline, has nothing to do with the case nor with any of the parties involved.

"This seizure is considered by Equatorial Congo Airlines manifestly illegal because it is based on a judgement between parties other than ECAir and the amount awarded in this judgement is not owed specifically by Equatorial Congo Airlines," it said.

Though the aircraft is wet-leased from PrivatAir (Switzerland) (PV, Geneva), it is now the fourth seizure of an African airline's aircraft this year following those of Air Algérie (AH, Algiers), CEIBA Intercontinental (C2, Malabo), and Force Aérienne Gabonaise (Libreville) (Gabonese Presidential Jet).