Russia - Ghana relations/

Kassardjan opens defence

By Ivy Benson | Posted: Thursday, July 01, 2004

THE DIRECTOR of Hotel Shangri-La, Mr. Armeen Kassardjan, has denied all the allegations leveled against him in the MV DIANA III case currently before the Fast Track Court (FTC).

Opening his defence at the court presided over by Justice Paul Barffour Bonnie on the 29th of June this year, Kassardjan noted that all the roles he played and the decision he took in getting the vessel fit for tuna fishing on the Ghanaian waters were well known to Ashot Melkoumyan, his Russian partner.

According to him, all the credit facilities acquired from the banks were used in offsetting the huge sums of debts incurred in running GAAS fisheries, a company established to manage the fishing vessel.

Kassardjan told the court that the company was currently owing him a debt of ?1 billion with the necessary documentation presently with Deloite and Touche, auditors for GAAS fisheries.

He confirmed earlier evidence that GAAS fisheries was established by Ashot, Karen Israelyan, another Russian, Alhaji Samir Kahi and himself with 31% shareholding each with the exception of Alhaji Samir, who had 7% shares.

However, Kassardjan told the court that the shareholding structure was later changed on the advice of the operation's manager of Mankoadze fisheries, a consultant for GAAS.

He noted that the consultant asked that the shareholding structure be changed to enable him acquire majority shares to suit the law, which was going to be passed in order to enable the company engage in tuna fishing.

The witness said the negotiations were done by the two Russian partners in the acquisition of the vessel from Russia and later sent through refurbishment, which was supposed to have been borne by Ashot.

According him, when the vessel was imported into the country, it had lots of equipment missing and aged equipment on board the vessel, which needed a placement.

He told the court that replacement of the equipment were made and the vessel was put in good shape to go fishing, but never had invoices on the refurbishment that Ashot made on the vessel, whiles in Russia.

Witness noted that after refurbishing the vessel, all the fishing expeditions operated were not profitable since there had always been losses in the business.

Kassardjan observed that differences arose, after Samir, Managing Director of GAAS fisheries refused to transfer money to Russia on the orders of Ashot, when the fishing vessel caught a full load in the last expedition on the high seas.

Witness said even though the procedures of transferring monies abroad were followed, the differences never ended.

Kassardjan alleged that Ashot was at one time loading the vessel docked at the Tema Habour with salt ostensibly to sail away, when the vessel was arrested.

Imminent collapse of GAAS Fisheries
... As court orders coy to pay c47m to ex-crewmen

By Ivy Benson, Tema | Posted: Friday, June 25, 2004

GAAS FISHERIES, a fishing company established to manage the operations of a Russian Vessel, MV DIANA III, is heading towards its collapse following a total amount of over c47 million judgement entered against the company in defaulting in the payments of 10 months salary arrears due four Ghanaian former crew members employed by the fishing company.

The Tema Magistrate Court, presided over by Mrs. Georgina Mensah-Datsa, ordered GAAS Fisheries to pay the former crew members their 10 months salary arrears totaling c27,931,000 including interests at the prevailing bank rates from October last year to the date of final payment.

The court further awarded general damages of ?8 million and a cost of c5 million against the fishing company.

The only fishing net used by the company in generating funds, is currently the primary target of the former crewmembers in the default of the total cost of c47,615,457 awarded by the district magistrate court, as it had ordered for the seizure of any movable property belonging to the company.

GAAS fisheries was further ordered to return the discharge books of the former crewmembers to them.

According to the judge, the former crewmembers, according to evidence laid before her, are entitled to the costs enumerated in her judgement.

The former crewmembers, which include Mr. Ernest Yanney, 2nd Officer in Command, Mr. Eric A. Dawson, 3rd Officer in Command, Mr. Kwesi Ankoh, Deck Boatswain and Mr. Samuel K. Ameyaw, Mechanical Engineer, were employed by the GAAS fisheries to work in the vessel MV DIANA II, when the former and latter were registered with the fisheries department to engage in deep sea fishing in Ghanaian waters.

The former crewmembers were sent on a fishing expedition with the vessel to Las Palmas, and on their return the vessel was seized following a legal tussle over ownership rights between two Russians and the GAAS fisheries, a case which is currently on-going at an Accra Fast Track Court.

The Ghanaian crewmembers were discharged after the arrest of the vessel, since the vessel no longer went fishing, leaving about 10 months salary arrears unpaid by the GAAS fisheries.

Battle over fishing vessel
Court orders witness to produce sample bill of sale

By Ivy Benson | Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Accra Fast Track High Court hearing a suit between two Russian investors and their Ghanaian partners over the ownership rights of a fishing vessel, "MV DIANA III" has ordered a witness, the Registrar of Ships, to make available to the court, samples of a bill of sale in his custody to ascertain the genuineness of the document on which the vessel was registered.

The court, presided over by Justice Baffour-Bonnie, gave the order when it appeared that there is misunderstanding regarding the genuineness of the bill of sale used in registering the vessel.

While counsel for the Russians, Ashot Melkoumyan and Karen Israelyan, noted that the bill of sale on the vessel, issued by the original sellers, Las Manio of Italy had a seal embossed on it, the one used in registering the vessel in Ghana had no seal from the transferor.

Led in evidence by Mrs. Justina Tete-Donkor, counsel for the Russians, the witness, Mr. Eugene Ofei Boohene who is also a shipping superintendent at the shipping navigation department of the Ministry of Port, Habours and Railways admitted that the bill of sale used in the registration of the vessel was incomplete.

The bill of sale presented for the registration of the vessel had no seal of Las Manio, the company that sold the vessel embossed on it, he told the court on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Boohene, the registration of ships was based on trust and in this regard it was believed that an agreement had been reached between its owners more especially, when the bill of sale was made in the presence of a commissioner of oath.

Witness indicated that the fishing vessel was duly registered on July 26, 2002, when the required documentations were met in accordance with the shipping act.

The bill of sale was issued in Ghana and not the country of origin of the vessel, he said which confirmed the ownership of the vessel to be a Ghanaian.

Even though witness admitted that it was a requirement to de-register a vessel in its country of origin before issuing a new registration in its new country, his outfit did not get the de-registration because the fishing business was based on trust.

"I believed that there was trust in complying with administrative works on the vessel", witness said.

Cross examined by Mr. D.K. Ameley, counsel for Armeen Kassardjan, the Ghanaian partner, witness told the court that it was a requirement of the shipping act that interested parties in a vessel operating in the country should be a 100% Ghanaian ownership.

Mr. Boohene also indicated that a vessel could not sail without any identification since it is against the laws governing the shipping industry.

He told the court that a provisional certificate was required to be issued for a short period by the country of origin to enable it sail until the new ownership of the vessel was completed.

He said a certificate indicating that the name and a new number had been carved on the vessel, was issued on July, 26 2002, adding that since that day "MV DIANA III" had been flying the Ghana flag as an identification.

Witness told the court that it was against the law for a vessel registered in Ghana to sail without a national identity.

The two Russians on one side and Armeen Kassardjan, director of Shangri-La Hotel on the other side, are in tussle over the ownership of the fishing vessel as a result of which they filed the counter suits. The vessel has been docked in Ghana with about 15 crewmembers on board since a year ago.

Issues to be considered by the court include the administrative lapses that had engulfed the operations of the fishing vessel by GAAS Fisheries Company formed by the partners to administer the vessel and the genuineness of documents of the shareholding structure.

The two parties consented to operate a fishing vessel, after Kassardjan had sold the idea to the Russian investors, who had come to the country to explore business opportunities.

The investors agreed to contribute the vessel, while their Ghanaian partner, Kassardjan was to handle all the legal requirements to enable the operations of the vessel take off in Ghana.

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

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

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

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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