Argentine leader rents UK plane to avoid debt seizure

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner will go on a four-nation trip in a rented British airplane for fear that her official aircraft would be impounded in a debt dispute, the government said Monday.

Despite a bitter war of words with London over the Falkland Islands, Kirchner's government is paying British air charter firm Chapman Freeborn $880,000 for the trip to Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The government's concern is very real: last year, a court in Ghana impounded the Argentine navy ship "Libertad" for two months following a request from NML Capital, a Cayman Islands-based investment firm.

The company, denounced by Argentina's government as a "vulture" fund," says Buenos Aires owes it $370 million stemming from the nation's debt default a decade ago.

Oscar Parrilli, the presidency's secretary general, said in a statement that it was "highly probable" that funds would try to detain Kirchner's official Tango 01 (T-01) aircraft on her upcoming trip.

Even though using the official plane would be 20 percent cheaper, the foreign ministry advised against using it "due to the aggressive posture of vulture funds," he said. A government source said the trip begins in Havana on Thursday.

Kirchner, who rented a Chapman Freeborn charter for previous trips in 2010 and 2011, has traded barbs with British Prime Minister David Cameron over the Falklands, which Britain retained after a bloody war on the islands in 1982.


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