Luxe jet firm's former staff 'still owed funds'

Some of the 40 employees in Singapore let go by luxury jet operator Zetta Jet after its sudden closure say they are still owed expenses and paid leave.

The company was incorporated here in 2015 and had offices in the United States.

It was ordered by a US court to stop operating on Nov 30 last year despite an attempt to rescue it financially and keep operations going.

Zetta Jet ran into trouble when its US and Singapore-based shareholders were embroiled in a legal tussle after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in mid-September last year.

Singapore-based staff of Zetta Jet, who included pilots and cabin crew and those in finance, sales and operations, had followed the unfolding events closely.

An operations employee told The Straits Times: "Some of us were concerned when we started hearing rumours in August. But we were assured that all would be fine."

Another employee said: "There were also issues with Zetta Jet (corporate) credit cards in the final months. So, many of the crew used their personal (credit) cards to keep things working."

It includes paying for Uber rides with their personal cards instead of the corporate cards.

In mid-November, staff in the US and Singapore received a letter via e-mail from Zetta Jet's US shareholders, Mr James Seagrim and Mr Matthew Walter.

They said that they were shocked and disappointed by a US Court's refusal to sanction an investment proposal by Scout Aviation, which had agreed to pump in up to US$8.5 million (S$11.2 million) in financing.

Signed by both US shareholders, the e-mail stated that both Mr Seagrim and Mr Walter had no idea why the financing package was not approved.

"Unfortunately, due to the company's limited liquidity, we will only be able to pay salary through Nov 30, 2017."

Prior to the Chapter 11 filing, Zetta Jet had accused its former managing director, Mr Geoffery Cassidy, of fraud.

The company lodged a lawsuit in the US against the Australia-born Mr Cassidy, alleging that it was forced to restructure its debts because Mr Cassidy had misappropriated funds from the company, among other claims.

It also alleged that Mr Cassidy had "wrongfully deprived Zetta Jet and/or Zetta Jet USA Inc of at least US$20 million to US$30 million".

Mr Cassidy, who was based in Singapore and removed as director in August last year, denied the allegations and secured an injunction in Singapore to stop the Chapter 11 move but the US court did not recognise it.

In a Nov 16 letter to employees, Mr Cassidy refuted Zetta Jet's accusations of fraud, corruption and unauthorised use of company jets.

While the final chapter of the Zetta Jet saga has yet to be written due to pending lawsuits, a plan to hire former employees may have already been hatched.

A private jet operator with Singapore-based US directors is believed to be recruiting former Zetta Jet employees.

It is understood that the company has a fleet of seven to nine aircraft.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Luxe jet firm's former staff 'still owed funds''. Subscribe