Irish units of AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft leasing company, have filed a lawsuit in London against a Dutch subsidiary of Russian air cargo giant Volga-Dnepr, the Irish Independent has learned.
This is believed to be one of the first cases brought against a Russian airline by a plane rental company after billions of dollars worth of planes owned by western jet rental companies were seized from the country following widespread attacks following its invasion of Ukraine sanctions had been imposed.
The legal action just launched in London is being initiated by four Dublin-based AerCap Irish units, including Celestial Aviation Trading Ireland Ltd.
Some Celestial units had leased aircraft to Volga-Dnepr’s AirBridge Cargo subsidiary.
Separately, AerCap’s Ireland-based Celestial Aviation Services filed a $46 million lawsuit in London last month against UniCredit, alleging the Italian bank made aircraft lease payments on behalf of Russia’s largest lender, of Sberbank, had guaranteed.
This claim relates to two Boeing 747-400 freighters leased to AirBridge and other aircraft leased to Aurora Airlines.
AerCap, led by CEO Gus Kelly, declined to comment on the action taken against the Dutch arm of Volga-Dnepr or say if it intends to take action against other units of Russian airlines based outside Russia.
Before the invasion of Ukraine and the associated sanctions, AerCap had leased 135 of its own aircraft and 14 of its own engines to Russian airlines.
The net book value of these assets was US$3.1 billion. Of those aircraft, 22 were recovered, as were three engines that were outside Russia.
The Schiphol-based unit of Volga-Dnepr posted sales of $2.34 billion and profit after tax of $604 million in 2020, the latest accounts show.
Its directors and officials include Konstantin Vekshin, who was appointed chief executive of Volga-Dnepr in January.
He was previously Chief Commercial Officer and before that he was involved in the group’s UK operations.
Other directors include Alexey Isaikin, a former Soviet-era colonel who founded the company in 1990 when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. He also holds Cypriot citizenship and remains the owner of the private company.
Lessors were reeling after the Russian government allowed airlines to take control of leased planes that were still in Russia at the time Ukraine was invaded. EU sanctions banned rental companies from providing services to Russian airlines. However, since many of the planes remained in Russia, lessors could not repossess them.
This has sparked a wave of lawsuits and claims from landlords trying to mitigate the financial damage from the foreclosures.
Celestials in the UniCredit case were informed in March by the bank that it was unable to make payments under the letters of credit due to sanctions. AerCap has denied this.
AerCap has also filed a $3.5 billion insurance claim relating to its jets seized in Russia.
Mr Kelly told analysts this week that “the reality is all those planes are gone” as far as the lessor is concerned.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/irish-jet-lessor-aercap-sues-russian-air-cargo-carrier-volga-dnepr-41668418.html Irish jet lessor AerCap is suing Russian cargo airline Volga-Dnepr