Russia - Ghana relations/

Tango over fishing vessel
... Court hears case

By Ivy Benson | Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2004

AN ACCRA Fast Track High Court is hearing a case in which the ownership of a Russian fishing vessel, MV "DIANA III" is in contention between two Russian investors, Ashot Melkoumyan and Karen Israelyan on one side and the director of Hotel Shangri-La, Mr. Armen Kassardjan, a Ghanaian on the other.

In counter suits, both parties are laying claim to the vessel, which had worked for barely six months after being issued a license in 1999 to operate in Ghanaian waters.

The court, presided over by Justice Baffuor-Bonney would determine the genuineness and legitimacy of the share-holding structure of the joint company, GAAS fisheries, the administrators of the fishing vessel and other managerial problems that had engulfed the running of the vessel.

At yesterday's hearing, two different company regulations pertaining to the share-holding structure of GAAS fisheries both dated February 24, 1999, came up for consideration, one from the Russian investors and the other from Mr. Kassardjan.

Led in evidence by Mr. Lawrence Tagoe, counsel for the Russian investors, a witness from the Registrar General's Department, Mrs. Patience Adumoah-Lartey, told the court that one of the regulations of the share-holding structure of the company had been altered without going through the laid down procedure for such changes.

According to witness, it was strange to have such alterations done and therefore there was the need to investigate the issue in order to ascertain the truthfulness of the altered document in the possession of Mr. Kassardjan, a director of the joint venture business.

In the original company regulation of GAAS fisheries, witness indicated that the four shareholders, Armen Kassardjan, Ashot Melkoumyan, Karen Israelyan and Alhaji Samir Kahi, who is the Ghanaian managing director of the company, had share values of 31m, 31m, 31m and 7m respectively.

However, witness noted that the altered document had a share value of 41m allocated to Mr. Kassardjan, 19m for Ashot Melkoumya, 31m for Karen Israelyan and 4m for Alhaji Samir Kahi even though the original share values could be seen from behind the altered document.

Cross-examined by Mr. D. K. Ameley, Counsel for Mr. Kassardjan, witness told the court that a certified true copy of a company regulation issued by the registrar general's department was not altered through erasures as could be identified with the document in possession of his client.

According to her, the public did not have access to the filing room where such documents were kept, adding that the matter needed to be investigated considering the two contradicting figures pertaining to the same document.

Another witness, Eugene Sai Johnson, administrative manager of Stanbic Bank, led in evidence by Mr. Joseph Mantey, counsel for the Russians said GAAS fisheries opened both cedi and dollar accounts with the bank and later requested for a credit loan and was granted 220 million for the purchase of fuel to run the vessel on it first expedition. This was after the bank had scrutinized the required documents as well as a guarantee from the directors of GAAS fisheries.

The two parties consented to operating a fishing vessel, after the director of Shangri-La sold the idea to the Russian investors, who had come to explore business opportunities.

The investors agreed to contribute the vessel, while their Ghanaian partner, Armen Kassardjan was to handle all the legal requirements to enable the vessel run in Ghana.

The parties then established GAAS fisheries to manage the vessel and appointed Alhaji Kahi as the managing director of the company.

The investors later saw that the ownership of the company had been altered with Armen Kassardjan allotted the highest shareholding in the company without their consent.

In their suits, both parties are claiming ownership of the vessel and damages, and an order for the accounts to be taken on the operations of the vessel on its expeditions so far.

Sitting continues today.

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