SYDNEY – The Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Australian charter airline Global Air Leasing to repay the Japanese government $6 million for failing to supply a jumbo jet in time to secretly take Japanese Red Army fugitives from Jordan to Japan in 2000.
In the lawsuit, the Japanese government sought reimbursement of $7.2 million — a $1.2 million charter fee and a $6 million security deposit — it paid to the Brisbane-based airline to hire a 20-year-old Boeing 747.
Justice John Muir ruled that the Japanese government was entitled to be repaid the $6 million security deposit.
However, he rejected Japan’s demand that the airline reimburse the $1.2 million charter fee, saying GAL had fulfilled its obligation under the contract by flying the aircraft to the United States in preparation for the flight to Narita airport.
The mission was to pick up four members of the Japanese Red Army accused of being involved in an attack on Tel Aviv’s Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion Airport) in 1972 that left 26 people dead and more than 70 wounded. Japan’s National Police Agency and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office chartered the plane.
The GAL plane was late arriving at Narita after suffering maintenance problems. Its takeoff from California was delayed because it was initially denied clearance.
As a result, the Japanese police and prosecutors were forced to charter another aircraft from a Russian company to fly to the Middle East.
“We intend to appeal,” GAL founder Luke Butler told Kyodo News.
“We are very relieved the judge has recognized that the government of Japan wrongly claimed we did not do the flight or that it was a failed charter flight,” Butler said. The company intends to appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeal.
The court did not uphold GAL’s defense that it was not liable because the secret mission was illegal.
GAL had maintained that the intention of the flight was to force the suspects onto the plane, which “amounted to deprivation of liberty on the part of the Japanese government,” GAL’s lawyer Peter Hackett told the court during the trial, which ended last month.