German authorities released AvCraft Aviation chairman Ben Bartel from a Munich jail last month, some two weeks after sending him there on suspicion of tax evasion. Munich attorney general Ruediger Hödl told AIN that although he had yet to indict Bartel, the former Fairchild Dornier principle owner remains a suspect and could face formal charges in a matter of “weeks or months.”
German police arrested Bartel on July 27 at Frankfurt International Airport on the suspicion he evaded €7 million ($8.53 million) in taxes through a fictitious transaction in the Cayman Islands. During last year’s Farnborough Air Show, Bartel freely admitted that he established a company in the Caymans specifically to buy 12 used Dornier 328 turboprops from Fairchild Dornier bankruptcy administrators and lend the tax-free proceeds to AvCraft’s manufacturing plant in Germany. At the time Bartel said his lawyers assured him of the plan’s legality.
Fairchild Dornier, meanwhile, again operates under the control of court-appointed bankruptcy administrator Martin Prager, who last month announced the sale of a second 328Jet to Sun-Air of Denmark and another to Berlin-based charter operator Private Wings. The sales, along with a new financing agreement with Maple Bank, which now holds 70 percent of the company’s debt, guarantee Fairchild Dornier’s liquidity until January, said Prager. Fairchild Dornier has now sold three of the four 328Jets originally destined for Hainan Airlines, whose refusal to take delivery of the airplanes the company blames in part for its insolvency.