US aviation company sues Argentina for not paying presidential plane fuel bill

The government blamed the outstanding US$350,000 tab on the previous administration, but some trips took place after Milei took office

A United States-based aviation fuel provider has filed a lawsuit in a Miami court against the Argentine government. The company, Associated Energy Group (AEG), accused the country of failing to pay for fuel and services to the presidential plane during trips by former and current presidents Alberto Fernández and Javier Milei.

AEG claims Argentina owes it US$351,028 for trips from September 18, 2023, through January 4, 2024. In its complaint, filed on March 28 to the Miami Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the company demanded full payment plus “interest, costs, late fees, and attorney’s fees.”

“It will be somewhere between US$400,000 and US$450,000,” AEG’s legal representative Harold Edward Patricoff told the Herald. However, Patricoff, a partner in Duane Morris LLP, said that the final calculation will be made once the debt is paid.

The fuels and services to the presidential plane, called the ARG-01, were in India, Peru, South Africa, and the United States.

According to Patricoff, AEG contacted the government, which gave two justifications for not paying. “It was two issues from the government side — one was funding problems and the other was the new administration under the new president was questioning charges of the use of the aircraft by the prior president,” Patricoff said.

A spokesperson for the Economy Ministry told the Herald that the debt was “inherited from the previous administration.”

Patricoff argued they would still have to pay and that some of the invoices presented as evidence in the complaint show that some fuelings were made in January, after the new president was elected.

A spokesperson for the President’s Office did not respond to the Herald’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Treasury Prosecution Office, the government organism in charge of defending the state in international litigation, said that the President’s Office had not notified them about the lawsuit. That would be necessary for the government to have an official position on the matter, the spokesperson added.

After weeks of discussions, Patricoff said, AEG asked to send a demand letter to the government, which he did. “We did not get a response at all,” he told the Herald. “So we were forced to file the lawsuit to collect the money.”

Patricoff, who has spearheaded similar cases against Egypt and Angola, said that this type of case is usually resolved in between 90 and 150 days, meaning that a ruling would be expected between June and September.

Sebastián Maril, CEO of Latam Advisors LLC, told the Herald that he sees an out-of-court agreement as more viable than a judicial ruling due to the relatively low value of the lawsuit.

Last Thursday, Patricoff said, AEG heard from a representative of the Argentine government. “ [They] said they were going to make two big payments to AEG this past Friday, May 17th, but nothing has come in yet,” he said.

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