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Basel Airport firms accused of earning millions by servicing dictators' planes

Basel Airport firms accused of earning millions by servicing dictators' planes

A new report from WOZ Die Wochenzeitung has suggested that Swiss international companies operating out of EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg earn millions of francs by servicing planes from authoritarian states. One expert called the Swiss airport one of the "most important" for dictatorial regimes.

Basel Airport a hotspot for servicing planes owned by dictatorships

According to data provided by Emmanuel Freudenthal - an expert in tracking aircraft who owns the Dictator Alert online website - Basel is a crucial servicing destination for authoritarian regimes. “For several years I have observed that Euro Airport is one of the most important destinations for aircraft owned by dictatorships,” he told WOZ.

He specifically accused two providers, Amac Aerospace and Jet Aviation, of earning millions from servicing aircraft belonging to dictators. Of the 190 authoritarian-owned aircraft tracked by Dictator Alert, around 60 have been in the Amac and Jet Aviation hangers in Basel over the last three years. These include aircraft owned by various authoritarian Gulf and Arab states, Belarus and other dictatorial regimes in Africa and Asia.

“In many countries that are customers of the two Basel companies, there is a catastrophic human rights situation,” noted Amnesty International Switzerland expert Natalie Wenger. She demanded that both firms analyse carefully whether their actions support human rights violations: “These companies not only need an economic strategy but also a human rights strategy.”

Plane implicated in Khasoggi murder serviced in Basel

Alongside planes owned by governments, Freudenthal also noted that several wealthy individuals from authoritarian states have also used Basel Airport's repair services. This includes former Chelsea Football Club owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, whose plane was stranded in Basel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Most damningly, Freudenthal reported that Gulfstream flight HZ-SK2 was pictured flying into Basel and moving into the Jet Aviation hanger on March 3, 2024. This plane was identified by the United Nations as one of two used in the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which the international community claims was ordered by officials in Saudi Arabia.

Current and former workers for the two companies who wished to remain anonymous told WOZ that around half of their sales are generated by work offered by authoritarian regimes. This means that both are alleged to have earned millions of francs from servicing the aircraft.

Basel maintenance companies refused to comment on allegations

Both companies refused to comment on the allegations made by WOZ. Speaking to 20 Minuten, a spokesperson for Basel Airport said the maintenance facilities are of “great importance” and generate nearly a third of the airport’s jobs. While they couldn’t comment on the allegations directly, they assured that all companies operating out of the airport would respect the law.

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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