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Airline ups stake in fuel fight

Airline ups stake in fuel fight

The dispute that grounded a Tonlesap Airlines plane on Tuesday and stranded more than 200 passengers in Siem Reap and Taipei, Taiwain, continued yesterday, as plane owner Far Eastern Transport upped the sum it claimed Tonlesap owed for fuel.

Far Eastern grounded a plane it had leased to Cambodian-owned Tonlesap at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, saying the company owed as much as US$105,000 in fuel fees.

The cancellation left 139 passengers at Taoyuan without a flight to Siem Reap, and more than 100 at the airport in Siem Reap waiting for a return trip to Taiwan.

Far Eastern manager Yang Tianyou said yesterday that his company was forced to pay a fee to both airports for the cancellation, and Far Eastern was now adding that sum to the amount owed by Tonlesap, for a total of $169,200.

Far Eastern had rented one plane to Tonlesap, which also has Taiwanese, British and Singaporean investors, since the company launched in 2011.

Although the air service will continue on two other planes rented by Tonlesap from a US company, according to Tonlesap officials, Far Eastern’s Yang Tianyou said it is unlike his firm will allow the resumption of flights on its plane.

“The plane will be grounded until they pay. We’ll look at Tonlesap’s attitude. Right now the signs are not good from them,” he said by phone from Taipei yesterday.

Tonlesap had made a down payment of about $149,860 before renting the plane, which should account for any outstanding debt, the company claimed yesterday.

Far Eastern increased its demand by about $67,660 yesterday, pushing the sum owed beyond Tonlesap’s claimed deposit, Tonlesap representatives said.

“If we said we had a cash deposit of NT$6 million at Far Eastern, I think you will see them say we owe NT$7 million,” Janice Yu, assistant to Tonlesap’s chief financial officer, said yesterday from Taipei.

Tonlesap is the second air service between Taiwan and Cambodia to be grounded without warning.

Angkor Airways flights, also managed by Tonlesap director Alex Lou, were grounded unexpectedly in May 2008 when Lou was taken into custody on embezzlement charges in Taiwan.

Tuesday’s incident was not the first dispute to arise between Far Eastern and Lou.

According to a statement on Tuesday from Far Eastern, Lou had attempted a hostile takeover of Far Eastern prior to his 2008 arrest.

The statement also accused Lou of insider trading and money laundering.

Lou was detained for two months in 2008 in Taiwan on related charges, the Post reported at the time.

He was fined about $135,000, the Far Eastern statement said.

Yang Tianyou declined to say why Far Eastern continued to do business with Lou after the 2008 incident.

Lou could not be reached yesterday for comment.