Diverted Accra Sewer Project Attracts $405.8 Million As Damages

Missouri-based TJGEM LLC, which was working on a proposed sewer system repair project for Ghana’s capital, Accra, is in the hunt for a $105.8 million as compensatory damages with additional $300 million in punitive damages.

The project also included working to secure a $595 million loan for Ghana from the Export-Import Bank of the United States towards the execution of the project.

TJGEM LLC, according to Law360.com, sued the Republic of Ghana along with former Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Kwabena Duffour and the Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer, Alfred O. Vanderpuije last Friday, for allegedly giving out the proposed $595 million sewer project it was working on for several months to a New Jersey-based Conti Construction Co. Inc.

The website narrated further that the defendants acted in bad faith by having the company spend several months working on the proposed sewer system repair project.

Law360.com stated that a Ghanaian official allegedly requested a bribe from TJGEM, which was turned down.

Nature of suit

Fraud and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act violation

Law360.com in its March 25, 2013 publication indicated that the New Jersey-based Conti Construction Co. Inc., which inked a memorandum of understanding with Ghana for the project was also named in the suit for alleged conspiracy.

The suit is TJGEM LLC v. Republic of Ghana et al., case number 1:13-CV-00382, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia March 22, 2013.

Suit claims

“Claims include misappropriation of proprietary work product, tortious interference with business relationship, fraud, conspiracy to defraud, extortion, wire and mail fraud, and violations of the RICO Act, the Hobbs Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

“The mayor and the Republic of Ghana did so misappropriate said confidential, privileged and valuable proprietary work product, business plan and sewer redevelopment model to their own use and economic benefit and to the economic detriment of TJGEM when it incorporated TJGEM’s work product in said memorandum of understanding with Conti,” the complaint said.

“The mayor represented to TJGEM’s principals that there would be no competitive bidding on the sewer project, that he had the ultimate authority to select the developer on the project, and that TJGEM would be the exclusive and only company invited to present a sewer project proposal,” TJGEM said in its complaint, adding that it was allegedly represented that a contract would be awarded once an engineering study was complete and agreement terms finalized.

Along the way, Mr. Vanderpuije allegedly told the group that other public officials involved in the project’s approval would expect bribes or kickbacks, according to the complaint, which the developer refused to do.

TJGEM was formed by St. Louis attorney Elbert Walton, Anthony Weaver and Ghana native and US naturalized citizen Gideon Adjetey, as well as several of his family members, after Adjetey was allegedly approached by Accra’s metropolitan chief executive, or mayor, Alfred O. Vanderpuije about infrastructure projects needed in the country, according to court documents.

Negotiations continued, and TJGEM allegedly worked with US officials to potentially secure a $587 million loan package from the Export-Import Bank of the US to finance the project. Afterward, however, it was Conti who signed the MoU and now has a letter of interest for a $595 million loan from the same bank.

“TJGEM spent over a year working on said sewer project, while Conti spent less than a month on the project; thus, it is reasonable to infer that neither Conti nor the minister of finance could have conducted the necessary engineering, financial, management and legal studies prerequisite to determining that the cost of such a project would total $595 million dollars, except by misappropriating TJGEM’s valuable sewer project work product,” the complaint said.

Representatives for the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

TJGEM is represented by Michael Lasley of Michael Lasley & Associates.

Counsel information for the Republic of Ghana and Conti was not immediately available Monday.