PIA plane taken to Germany by former CEO sold for $1.4m, SC told

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines airplane, an Airbus-310, which was allegedly taken to Germany by its former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bernd Hildenbrand, was sold in $1.4 million, the national flag-carrier stated in its response in the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday.

“The plane was not missing but sold as it completed its tenure in 2016,” the PIA’s response submitted in the apex court stated.

The response was submitted during the hearing of an appeal moved by Air Marshal Arshad Malik against the Sindh High Court (SHC) order which had restrained him from carrying out any function as CEO of PIA.

The petitioner had contended before the high court that Arshad Malik was a serving officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and his appointment as PIA chief was made in utter disregard of law laid down by the apex court in its judgment of Aug 3, 2018, against the appointment of the then CEO.

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Reportedly, a British company had chartered PIA’s Airbus A-310 in 2017 for the purposes of a film, which was shot in Malta, following which the aircraft flew to Germany and then sold for Rs190 million. The film company had also paid PIA over $200,000 as rent for the plane.

From Malta, the Airbus flew directly to the Leipzig Halle Airport museum in Germany, the media reports had suggested. The reports also said that the aircraft had already completed its flying hours and was no longer airworthy since it was a 30-year-old aircraft and had already been grounded.

In the previous hearing of the case on Feb 12, the mysterious sale of the airbus caught the attention of the Supreme Court when it questioned whether the sale of the plane — a public property — amounted to national offence or not.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed surprise over the casual attitude on part of the national flag carrier to pursue the matter and asked whether such incidents have ever happened in other airlines of the world where the CEO sells off a plane “just like that”.

The airline, in its reply, further stated that the PIA administration is cooperating in the investigation as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were already investigating the matter before the takeover of the new management.

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