US Firm Seeks Sanctions Against Accra Mayor Vanderpuije For Fraud Upon US Court.
Law360, Los Angeles (November 21, 2013, 8:51 PM ET) — A project developer urged a federal judge on Wednesday to impose sanctions against a Republic of Ghana official and the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP for allegedly submitting false documents in litigation accusing Ghana and various officials of luring the developer into working on a proposed $595 million sewer project before giving the project to another company.
Missouri-based TJGEM LLC claims Alfred O. Vanderpuije, the metropolitan chief executive of Accra, Ghana, submitted through his attorneys at Dorsey & Whitney copies of fraudulent emails purporting to refute allegations that Vanderpuije sought bribes from TJGEM as a condition to secure the contract for the sewer project.
Wednesday’s motion requests attorneys’ fees and costs associated with bringing the motion for sanctions and other relevant court filings, and asks for the court to censure Vanderpuije’s lawyers for gross negligence, recklessness and unprofessional conduct.
TJGEM sued the republic — along with its minister of finance and Vanderpuije — in March for allegedly acting in bad faith by having the company work for several months on a proposed sewer system repair project for Accra, which included efforts to secure a loan for Ghana from the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., only to have the contract awarded to another company.
The suit claims misappropriation of proprietary work product, tortious interference with business relationship, fraud, conspiracy to defraud, extortion, wire and mail fraud, and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Hobbs Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Among TJGEM’s claims is that Vanderpuije told the company that other public officials involved in the project’s approval would expect bribes or kickbacks, according to the complaint. The developer contends it refused to do this.
In a declaration, Vanderpuije denied TJGEM’s accusations of impropriety, citing copies of two emails he purportedly received from TJGEM principals Mark and Gideon Adjetey. The emails allegedly written by the Adjeteys claimed TJGEM’s general counsel, Elbert Walton, fabricated the allegations that Vanderpuije sought bribes from the company, according to court documents.
But TJGEM contended the emails were fraudulent, and served Vanderpuije’s counsel at Dorsey & Whitney with the motion for sanctions on Oct. 31, according to court records.
On Nov. 18, Vanderpuije’s counsel withdrew from the record the two emails and all references to those emails in Vanderpuije’s declaration and other court filings, court documents said.
TJGEM was formed by Walton, Anthony Weaver and Ghana native and U.S. naturalized citizen Gideon Adjetey, as well as several of his family members, after Adjetey was allegedly approached by Vanderpuije about infrastructure projects needed in the country, according to court documents.
Vanderpuije represented to TJGEM’s principals that there would be no competitive bidding on the Accra 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, the company claims.
TJGEM allegedly worked with U.S. officials to potentially secure a $587 million loan package from the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. to finance the sewer project. However, New Jersey-based Conti Construction Co. Inc. ultimately inked a memorandum of understanding with Ghana for the project.
“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 company is seeking $105.8 million in compensatory damages and another $317 million in punitive damages, according to court documents.
An attorney for Vanderpuije did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.
TJGEM is represented by Michael Lasley of Michael Lasley & Associates.
The Republic of Ghana and Vanderpuije are represented by Creighton R. Magid and Juan C. Basombrio of Dorsey & Whitney LLP.
The suit is TJGEM LLC v. Republic of Ghana et al., case number 1:13-cv-00382, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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