Friday 14 December 2018

Charitable company seeks €14m judgment over aircraft lease agreements

Tim Healy

A COMMERCIAL company whose profits are distributed to charities here and abroad is seeking judgment for more than €14m against two other firms over alleged persistent breaches of lease agreements for aircraft, including helicopters involved in search and rescue operations.

It also wants orders for repossession of three helicopters and equipment including medical kits.

The proceedings by Abbey International Finance Ltd, Merrion Square, Dublin - beneficially owned by the World Charitable Foundation of Ireland - came before Mr Justice Peter Kelly at the Commercial Court who said he will deal on Friday with Abbey's claim to enter the case in that court's list.

Since 1993, Abbey has paid more than €21m to its beneficial owner, all of which was distributed to charities in Ireland and abroad, the court heard.

The action is against Point Ireland Helicopters SA, with registered offices at Earslfort Terrace, Dublin, and Elitaliana SpA, with registered offices in Rome. Both defendant companies are within the same group of companies whose parent is the Italian company, Point Holdings SpA.

Declan McGrath, for Abbey, said the case related to a series of aircraft lease agreements involving a number of helicopters and air medical kits. More than €14.3m was involved, he said.

Counsel said, while Abbey is a commercial entity, its work is carried out for charitable objectives and its profits were put to good causes.

His client was seeking to service loans at the same time the defendants were defaulting on their lease payment obligations, he said.

There has been extensive correspondence about this matter for some time, his side had served lease termination notices on June 11 last and would be concerned about any delay in dealing with the matter, counsel added. The defendants were receiving some €400,000 under a "lucrative" contract in Kosovo while still accruing arrears to his client, he said.

Colm O hOisin SC, for the defendants, said the proceedings had been served just last Thursday and he needed time to take instructions.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would allow a short time to the defendants and would deal with the application to fast-track the case on Friday when he will also deal with Abbey's application for orders to inspect the aircraft.

In court papers, Abbey claims it has had a business relationship with the defendants over a number of years including lease arrangements for helicopters and related equipment and set out details of aircraft lease agreements from 2008 related to three Eurocopter EC-135 T2i aircraft.

It claims Point Holdings SpA guaranteed the obligations of the two defendant companies under the leases and alleged serious default in relation to payment obligations under the leases since late 2008.

While the defendants had continued to make payments up to June 14 last, the level of payments had diminished over recent months, it said. While a payment of €300,000 was made on June 14, the normal quarterly payments due were more than €760,000 while arrears were now more than €5.44m.

By May last, the point had been reached where Abbey had lost confidence in the intention and ability of the defendants to keep payments up to date and to reduce the arrears, Abbey said. It was left with no choice but to terminate the leases and to exercise its rights udner security agreements, including a security over another aircraft owned by Point Aircraft SpA.

It was anxious to regain possession of the aircraft involved for insurance and other reasons, the company added.

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