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Conti cleared to continue work on sewer project

January 9, 2014 7:58 PM
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Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), briefing the press on the case. With him is Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, the Attorney-General.

The Government of Ghana has won a landmark case in a United States court where it was sued by a US company, Tjgem LLC, for punitive damages totalling $425 million.

The case, which was related to the award of a contract to the Accra Sewer Development Project, also had the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and its Chief Executive, Dr Alfred Okoe Vanderpujie; former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffour, and Conti Construction Company Inc. of the US as co-defendants.

Tjgem LLC filed the case at the United States District Court for Columbia on March 22, 2013 alleging common law fraud, racketeering and economic espionage, conspiracy to defraud and misappropriation and conversion of trade secrets against the Government of Ghana and its officials.

But in its ruling on December 31, 2013, the court, with Judge Beryl A. Howell presiding, dismissed the case saying, “The claims by Tjgem are at best those of a disappointed bidder that failed to win a contract with a foreign government.”

“That Tjgem was asking for an examination of the reasons for and propriety of foreign sovereign’s decision for the award of a contract for the construction project in a foreign state and that such an examination was prohibited,” the judge said.

This was made known at a press conference organised by the AMA in Accra yesterday and addressed by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marrieta Brew Appiah-Oppong.

In attendance were the former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffour; the AMA Chief Executive, Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, and some members of the assembly.

Explaining why Ghana filed for the dismissal of the case, the minister said after President John Dramani Mahama consulted her, the Minister of Finance and the AMA Chief Executive, he (president) decided that the case should be defended since there was no substance in the allegation made by the company. Consequently, the AG and her team employed a US law firm, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, to battle the case in the US court.

Tjgem averred that after entering into formal discussions with the Government of Ghana for the construction of the Accra Sewer System, they prepared a business plan and model for the execution of the project.

However, after obtaining the model, the government and AMA handed over the model to another US company, Conti, which they used to sign the memorandum of understanding to execute the project.

The court, however, ruled that it had no subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the Republic of Ghana. The judge continued that even if the court had jurisdiction, Tjgem had likely destroyed its own misappropriation claim by filing “un-redacted, complete versions of the documents it alleged to be trade secrets, on the public docket in the matter.”

“It is a 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,” the court added.

It further stated that Tjgem made no effort to secure the confidential agreements before the dissemination of the document containing the purported trade secrets, thereby calling into question whether Tjgem had made the requisite efforts to safeguard its secrets.

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