Lloyd’s of London faces £6bn claim over planes stolen by Vladimir Putin: insurers sued by owners of 400 planes worth £8bn seized by Kremlin
- Dozens of claimants have launched multi-billion pound claims
- The case is the biggest aviation insurance dispute
- Alleged decision by senior Kremlin officials was in retaliation for sanctions
Lloyd’s of London is facing a mammoth legal battle over hundreds of airliners stolen by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dozens of claimants, including Dubai’s ruling royal family, have launched multibillion-pound claims against the historic insurance market and underwriters including AIG and Chubb.
The case – the biggest aviation insurance dispute – was brought after more than 400 Western jets worth £8billion were seized by Putin’s government following its invasion of Ukraine last February. It is alleged that the decision by senior Kremlin officials was in retaliation for UK and EU sanctions.
Putin laid out his position in a public speech last March when he stressed that “aircraft leased abroad would not be returned to foreign lenders.” The Kremlin’s aim was to keep them as a source of spare parts for Russian airlines – like Manchester United’s former sponsor Aeroflot – which already rely heavily on foreign leased planes.
Russian engineers are now able to cannibalize stolen Boeings and Airbuses to secure spare parts they can no longer buy abroad because of sanctions.
Retaliation: Over 400 Western jets worth £8billion seized by Vladimir Putin’s government following its invasion of Ukraine
This sparked safety fears among aviation experts and forced the head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency to issue a statement insisting that “it has not become more dangerous to fly ” in Russia. Lawyers for Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, headed by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and other claimants have argued that the planes “are likely to be kept” for years because “there is currently no prospect of resolution of the conflict in Ukraine”.
The Kremlin is beyond the reach of London’s High Court, so plane owners are targeting insurers for billions in losses. But the insurers claim they are not liable because the planes were not damaged or lost.
They argue that Russia’s seizure of planes is “not permanent enough” – meaning that leasing companies could still get the planes back at the end of the war. Dubai Aerospace Enterprise is taking action against the insurers, while a parallel suit has also been filed by Irish leasing giant AerCap, the world’s largest aircraft lessor.
A court hearing is due later this month. A city source said it could attract other interested parties who have not yet filed claims.
The city’s senior attorney, Ned Beale, who specializes in Russia-related litigation, said: “This is the largest air dispute by value of all time.” And one of the most politically charged.
He said he expects insurers to drag their feet on such a costly settlement, adding: “No one knows what will happen.” [in the war]. Insurers are hoping for radical change to avoid shelling out billions.
All parties have been contacted for comment.