US company sues AMA, Duffour for $511M

General News of Friday, 5 April 2013

Source: The Chronicle

Alfred Vandapuye

A US-based company, TJGM, LLC, has filed a suit ( No 1:13-cv-00382) at the District Court of Columbia in the USA against the Republic of Ghana, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, the AMA Chief Executive, Dr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, and Conti Construction Co, Inc., a US-based company, claiming compensatory damages in the sum of $105,808,750, and punitive damages in the sum of $300,000.000 for an aggregate of $405, 808,750.00.

The defendants to the suit which was filed on Friday March 22, 2013, have 60 days to acknowledge receipt of complaint and 90 days to file a response. Though one of the partners to the suit claimed in an e-mail conversation with this reporter that the summons had been sent via priority mail to Ghana on March 26, 2013, to be served on the defendants, both Dr. Kwabena Duffour and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly have denied receiving any summons from the court.

The plaintiff has brought the action under US law 28 USC § Sec. 1332, in that there is complete diversity of citizenship, and that the amount in controversy well exceeds the sum of $75,000.

According to the suit, though Ghana is a sovereign foreign state, it is being sued vicariously, based on tortuous conduct of its public officials committed in the course and scope of their duties as public officials.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has been joined to the suit, based on the conduct of one of its public officials, committed in the course and scope of his duties.

Both Dr. Kwabena Duffour and Dr. Okoe Vanderpuije, who the writ says holds dual citizenship of Ghana and the US, has been cited for the same reason.

The plaintiff accuses the defendants in the writ of conspiratorial fraudulent misrepresentations to induce the plaintiff and its personnel to expend time and funds both within the US and within the Republic of Ghana to;

(a) produce valuable, confidential and privileged proprietary work product, business plans and redevelopment model for repairs and improvements to the sewer system in the city of Accra, Ghana and

(b) secure financing for said a sewer project through the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The plaintiff is further accusing the defendants of malicious failure to deal with the plaintiff in good faith and fairly, when the defendants solicited the plaintiff to produce the said valuable proprietary work product to secure said financing, and to deliver said valuable proprietary work product, business plan and redevelopment model to the defendants.

The US company is, again, alleging misappropriation of plaintiff’s valuable proprietary work product, business plan and redevelopment model to defendants’ economic benefit and the economic detriment of plaintiff, and (4) fraud, conspiracy to defraud, racketeering and corrupt practices in an attempt to extort, induce, and coerce plaintiff to pay bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, in order to be awarded a contract for repair of the said sewer system in the city of Accra.

According to the plaintiff, it entered into formal discussions with the government of Ghana, through the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, to construct a sewer system in Accra, and went further to prepare a business plan and model for the execution of the project.

The plaintiff company alleged the first, second, third and fourth defendants, after laying hands on its work, used it to sign a memorandum of understanding with the 5th defendant, and handed over the project to it.

“Conti (5th defendant) knew or should have known that TJGEM and Ghana had developed an informal business relationship, by which TJGEM had developed, prepared, and presented to the AMA and the Republic of Ghana, valuable proprietary work product, a business plan, and model for the construction or reconstruction of the sewer system in the Accra Metropolitan District, to alleviate flooding from storm water.

“Conti conspired with the Republic of Ghana, the Minister of Finance, and the Mayor of Accra to misappropriate, and did so misappropriate, TJGEM’s proprietary work product, business plan and model for the construction or reconstruction of the sewer system in the Accra Metropolitan District, in order to induce Ghana to enter into a contract with Conti, instead of with TJGEM, for the construction or reconstruction of the sewer system in Accra,” the writ noted.

Though Dr. Kwabena Duffour denied any receipt of summons on him, he, nevertheless, admitted that when he accompanied the late President Mills to the USA early last year, they did sign a Memorandum of Understanding with CONTI, which later followed up to Accra, and has succeeded in reaching a deal with the AMA over the project.

He, however, thinks TJGM, LLC has taken the action because it is peeved that the contract had not been given to it. Duffour also wondered how an action could be brought against them in the US, if the writ is actually true. He directed this reporter to speak to AMA boss, Dr. Alfred Okoh Vanderpuije over the issue. All efforts to reach him (AMA Boss), however, proved futile, as his cell phone was constantly off.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the AMA, however, told The Chronicle that he was not aware that the writ had been served on the AMA. “To the best of my knowledge, it has not come to my attention,” he said. TJGEM, LLC listed its address in the suit as 2320 Chambers Rd St Louis, MO 63136.

When contacted to find out if an action could be brought against the government and its officials in a foreign land, an Accra-based legal luminary, Mr. Kweku Paintsil, said depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, such an action could be brought. He noted that before a contract is executed, the parties could agree on the forum they could use to settle any dispute that might arise.

According to him if it was true that an action had been brought against the government in a US court, it could be possible that the parties to the contract agreed to settle the dispute in the US court. Sometimes too, Mr. Paintsil noted, a party to the dispute, for convenience sake, could bring the action against defendant(s) at the place they reside.

To him, travelling to the US to defend a case could be costly, and that the government could raise an objection and insist that the case be heard in Ghana, but that can only be done if they were not bound by any contractual agreement to defend the case in the US.