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Justice helicopter for sale

Are you in the market for a helicopter previously owned by the family business of Gov. Jim Justice?

If so, your big break could be just over the horizon. A 2009 Bell 427 that has been the subject of a dispute over the past few months is now listed publicly for sale.

“Two Owners Since New, No Damage History, Complete Aircraft Record Since New, Bell Service Center Maintained.”

Potential buyers would have to call or email for the price.

The helicopter went on the market to help settle at least a portion of a debt dispute that unfolded in federal court.

On March 1, a federal judge entered an order directing Bluestone Resources, owned by Justice and his family, to turn over the helicopter for a sale through Helicopter Exchange Ltd., known as Heli-X, within 72 hours.

The judge at that time also laid out a backup plan for “seizing the Helicopter with the aid of the U.S. Marshals Service, and delivering it to the custody of Heli-X.”

On March 7, representatives of the marshals service submitted a writ stating that their activity was not necessary: “Matter was resolved between parties with no services executed by the USMS.”

Now the helicopter is listed online for those with an aviation interest and a $1 million or so — possibly quintessential West Virginia residents Toby and Edith — to buy.

The helicopter sale represents the climax of a dispute between Justice’s Bluestone Resources and Caroleng Investments, parent company to the Russian mining company Mechel that bought and sold properties with Justice.

Caroleng sought the seizure over a debt now amounting to about $13 million, already recognized and awarded in the federal court system.

Justice sold the family’s coal assets to Mechel in May 2009 for $436 million in cash and 83.3 million preferred shares of Mechel stock. Justice then bought Bluestone back in 2015 for $5 million. The mines had closed under Mechel, but Justice reopened them.

The deal to buy back the Bluestone properties included a provision to pay Caroleng $3 a ton in royalty payments for mined coal, along with defined portions of future sales. In court filings, Caroleng claimed Bluestone withheld the royalty payments.

Mechel first made its debt case to a three-person panel for the International Chamber of Commerce, which arbitrated the dispute in Paris, France, in October 2019, two years into Justice’s first term as governor. The panel awarded $8.4 million plus pre-award interest of $1.7 million. Representatives of Mechel say the debt has continued to grow.

Caroleng, on behalf of Mechel, has been acting on a 2021 federal court order to enforce the arbitration award but has been challenged to collect on its judgment. Liquidating the helicopter, conceivably, could satisfy a portion of the debt.

Bluestone Resources objected to the helicopter seizure by a company “controlled by a Russian oligarch.” Bluestone’s lawyers said that if the helicopter is seized and liquidated then the money should instead go to different lenders higher up the debt priority list.

One of those lenders, 1st Source Bank of Indiana, jumped in to identify itself as a lender with a perfected, first-priority security interest on the helicopter. The bank said Bluestone still owed millions of dollars for the helicopter and other loans on additional property.

Bluestone and the bank estimate the helicopter’s value at $1.2 million.

Once the sale has gone through, the proceeds will be held in escrow with arrangements for Caroleng and 1st Source to figure out who is entitled to what amount.