KARACHI, July 29: An attempt by Bhoja Air to shed its aviation assets in the country and take its investment abroad has been foiled by the Civil Aviation Authority by freezing its assets at least till the airline settles its reported Rs778 million liabilities, sources told Dawn on Sunday.

Bhoja Air was trying to give one of its aircraft to Shaheen Air International, but the CAA put its foot down and declined to allow the deal to materialise to protect interests of heirs of the Bhoja Air crash victims and to wrest its own outstanding dues from the airline, the sources added.

They said the CAA had also informed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), and Shaheen Air International (SAI) and other relevant organisations about its decision of not allowing the airline to liquidate its assets until it cleared its dues.

Following the Bhoja Air flight crash near Islamabad on April 20, which left all the 127 people on board dead, the government had registered a case against Arshad Jalil, whose family is a major shareholder in the airline. Mr Jalil was out of the country at that time. Rather than returning to Pakistan to fight a legal battle, he preferred to reside in a Gulf state where also he had business interests, the sources said, adding that in a attempt to take away his investment in the airline, he tried to sell the Boeing 737-400 aircraft parked at the Karachi airport to SAI.

The deal had almost been finalised, but it was stopped only when SAI tried to get the Bhoja Air aircraft registered in its name and the CAA refused it, said the sources.

In its communication to SAI on the subject of ‘Addition of B737 aircraft, Registration No AP-BKF’, the CAA stated that this was in “reference [to] your letter No: SAI/FLT OPS/001/02/OPS SPEC/555.

“The B737-400 aircraft Regn No: AP-BKF belongs to M/s Jet Aviation, UAE, which is owned by Arshad Jalil who was also a shareholder in M/s Bhoja Air. The Ministry of Defence, the FIA and the SECP have been intimated by the CAA that the assets (particularly aircraft) of M/s Bhoja Air have been frozen and the CAA may not permit any change in the ownership / registration of aircraft until all CAA dues and / or the insurance payment to legal heirs of the crash victims is fully settled.

“In view of the foregoing, Boeing 737-400 Regn No: AP-BKF cannot be included in the Operations Specifications of M/s Shaheen Air International until clearance is received from all the concerned directorates of CAA,” added the letter.

In a communication to the SECP on the subject of recovery of past and present CAA dues from Bhoja Air, the CAA stated: “Bhoja Air owes about Rs78 million to CAA as long-standing dues and about Rs700 million on account of compensation to the victims of air crash that took place on April 20, 2012 in Islamabad.

“CAA needs to secure its interest on account of outstanding dues as well as compensation to be paid to the victims of Bhoja Air crash on April 20, 2012 in Islamabad. Bhoja Air has two aircraft on Pakistan register and an engineering set-up at Jinnah International Airport. All these assets could be frozen in the sense that CAA may not allow any change in their ownership / registration until all CAA dues and / or compensation is fully paid.

“SECP is requested not to allow change of company name until all victims of Bhoja Air’s aircraft crash on April 20, 2012 have been paid in full,” concludes the CAA communication.

Then in a communication to the FIA on the subject ‘Enquiry No 15/2012 of FIA Corporate Crime Circle, Karachi regarding Bhoja Air Crash’, the CAA stated this was in “reference to your letter # FIA/CCC/ENQ-15/2012/3280-81.

“Competent authority has decided not to allow any change in the ownership of Bhoja Air’s aviation business assets in Pakistan until all CAA outstanding dues / compensation to the victims of Bhoja Air aircraft crash on April 20, 2012 have been paid in full.”

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