Seized MAF planes returned after favorable judicial ruling

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KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — A three-year battle over taxes that resulted in the seizure of planes and vehicles owned by Mission Aviation Fellowship has been resolved after a judge recently ruled in the ministry's favor.

The order included returning MAF's fleet.

"We were in need of prayer support for wisdom and intervention on our behalf," Fran Derocher, Africa regional director for MAF, said in a news release. "I honestly believe our prayers have been answered."

According to ministry representatives, MAF was locked in a protracted battle with government aviation officials over taxes. Every time officials inspected MAF property, the staff was able to show paid receipts for all past taxes. Even so, the government continued to assess fines, which escalated to nearly $400,000.

"We were facing a situation where there was a request that we either pay, or 'the next step' would happen," Derocher said. "We didn't know what 'the next step' would be or how we would handle it, but we did have a lawyer working on our behalf."

In addition to fines, Mission Aviation's team was facing charges and recently had to appear in court.

Derocher said her ministry found favor with the judge when government officials failed to appear in court for the hearing due to election unrest, eventually quelled by U.N. troops.

"It just so happens that day there was a little bit of trouble in town, but our guys still went to court," she said. "The judge was there. But guess who wasn't? The other side."

During the hearing MAF was able to present all of its evidence, including tax payment receipts.

"Having no counter argument to consider, the judge took the evidence, and after about two weeks, our planes were freed," she said.

Founded in 1945, MAF provides missions and humanitarian agencies the means to minister to the people of East DRC. Organizations that depend on MAF services to carry out their ministry efforts include: Christian Blind Mission, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Doctors Without Borders, MEDAIR and Worldwide Evangelization for Christ.