A Columbia District Court presided over by Judge Berry A. Howell, has dismissed a case filed against the Republic of Ghana, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Dr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije and former minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Dufuor by an international construction firm, TJGEM LLC. The matter begin dismissed the payment of damages of US$425million was averted.
At a crowded news conference held today in Accra, to set the record straight, on the dismissal of the case, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice Hon. Marietta B. Oppong described the action of TJGEM as unfortunate.
Flanked by Dr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije and Dr Dufuor, Madam Oppong revealed that in a suite dated 22nd March, 2013, TJGEM claimed compensatory and punitive damages of approximately US$425million alleging that the Republic of Ghana and its government officials have engaged in the misappropriation of and conversion of Trade Secrets, Common Law Fraud, Conspiracy to Defraud, Racketeering and Economic Espionage.
The Attorney General said, in handling this case her outfit and the United States Law firm Dorsey & Whiteny LLP worked closely with the office of the President, the Mayor of Accra, the Minister for Finance and officials of the AMA.
According to her, TJGEM’s allegations arose after the Republic of Ghana and the AMA signed a contract with a US Construction company, CONTI to handle the sewage situation project in Accra, after the devastating floods that hit the nation in 2010 and 2011, after TJGEM and CONTI all entered bids for the project.
She noted that TJGEM based its claims allegations that its members and consultants invested considerably time and money in the creation of intellectual property and proprietary commercial work product, business plan and business model for construction of the Accra Sewer System.
“That it only disclosed same to the Mayor of Accra pursuant to a misrepresentation of the Mayor and the Republic of Ghana that TJGEM was going to be awarded the sewer project contract,” she said.
She continued that TJGEM also alleged in its claim that the Republic of Ghana and the Mayor by and through the Mayor in concert with Dufuor, H.E. the late President Mills as their appointing and superintendent authority and several other government officials failed to deal with them (company) in good faith.
Giving the overview of the ruling by Judge Beryl A. Howell, Madam Oppong stated that the court has no subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the Republic of Ghana or AMA, as it stated that “Upon an application for dismissal of the case made by lawyers for the Republic of Ghana and its government officials, Judge Beryl A. Howell on the 31st day of December 2013 dismissed the case in its entirety.”
The ruling also stated that even if it did have jurisdiction, TJGEM likely had destroyed its own misappropriation claim by filing up-redacted, complete versions of the documents it alleges to be trade secrets, on the public docket in this matter.
The court said, it is well established principle that the release of information in open court is a publication of information and if no effort is made to limit its disclosure, operates as a waiver of any rights a party has to restrict its further use.
Additionally, the ruling contended that TJGEM made no efforts to secure the confidential agreement before dissemination of the document containing the purported trade secrets thereby calling into question whether TJGEM established the requisite reasonable efforts to safeguard their secrets especially in the light of the multiple parties to which it disclosed the alleged secret information.
Consequently, the ruling also stated that TJGEM’s claims are at base those of a disappointed bidder that failed to win a contract with a foreign government.
According to the ruling, TJGEM was asking for an examination of the reasons for and proprietary of the foreign sovereign decision for the award of contract for construction project in a foreign state and that such examination is prohibited.
“The Ghana Defendants make plain that the basis for the selection of CONTI instead of TJGEM was that TJGEM was created solely to attempt to pursue the subject project whereas CONTI is an established company with extensive experience in infrastructure and comes highly recommended by officials of the US Embassy,” the ruling stated.
For his part the Mayor who looked very happy about the development, said the Assembly will contact their attorneys for advise on possible case against TJGEM.
He also indicated that, in order to avoid this form of international embarrassment, his outfit will always follow the guidelines to do what is right.
“Ghana will continue to fly high both locally and internationally,” he said.
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