S/ Court Last Hope for Guinean Company in ‘Hijacked’ Container Controversy

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Now, it is the decision of the Supreme Court that could either establish the confidence of the Guinean company in the country’s justice system.

The belief by some senior management staffs of the Guinean Company, Agid Sariu Seige Medina Dispenser BP that using the Liberian justice system could be the legitimate way to take ownership of the alleged hijacked or stolen container marked AXUI1476111 proved them wrong on Tuesday, August 4, at the Civil Law Court.

The Guinean delegation was left speechless and refused to make any comment to journalists at the court on Tuesday immediately after Judge Kennedy Peabody ruled that the controversial container belonged to the Monsterrado Group of Industries that is owned by a Lebanese businessman, Houssel Kaffel.

Kaffel is the contractor for President George Weah’s mansion on 9th Street, which is currently under construction. Judge Peabody also did not leave there but dropped the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) that had earlier admitted issuing the container to Kaffel without the concern of the Guinean Company that had accused Kaffel of criminality of wrongdoing. Again, Peabody’s ruling also dropped a similar accusation against CMA-CGM Liberia, the shipping line that admitted it was behind the diversion of the container to Liberia en route from Istanbul, Turkey to Guinean. However, the Liberian lawyers representing the Guinean Company on Tuesday rejected Judge Peabody’s decision and appeal against it to the Supreme Court.

Now, it is the decision of the Supreme Court that could either establish the confidence of the Guinean company in the country’s justice system. Initially, the Guinean company strongly rejected the joint motion filed to the court by both the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Mr. Kaffel, claiming that they should not be held responsible for the diversion of the container to Liberia by the CMA-CGM-Liberia shipping line.

But Judge Peabody ruled that there was no claim to hold Kaffel and the MoJ responsible to account for the hijacked container. Another serious contention raise by the Guinean Company was that there was no time for them and the CMA-CGM-Liberia to argue the shipping line motion to dismiss the accusation against it as claimed by the Guinean company. Interestingly, Judge Peabody had heard heated legal arguments that involved both the MoJ and Kaffel on the one hand and the Guinean company on the other side on the motion to drop the allegation against them, MoJ and Kaffel.

The Guinean company that was claiming ownership of the container and its content, had filed a lawsuit against CMA-CGM for disregarding the container original bill of lading that was agreed between Mr. Raze Akhavein, an Iranian born Turkish national general manager of Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd, based in Turkey, that had given the original bill of lading to the Guinean company as its consignee.

It was that argument Judge Peabody did not hear when he included the CMA-CGM into the MoJ and Kaffel’s motion to drop them from the lawsuit. Mr. Raze Akhavein, an Iranian born Turkish national general manager of Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd, based in Turkey, gave the original bill of lading to the Guinean company as its consignee. In their motion that was argued, the CMA-CGM said that on March 3, 2020, Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd, the shipper /consignor requested a bill of lading from their parent company, CMA CGM SA and the container was assigned a bill of lading with the container to the Guinean Company, Agid Sariu Seige Medina Dispenser BP, as the consignee.

And, that on March 31, 2020, the shipper/ consignor Aria Gida Katku MADD Sanvet TIC, Ltd gave them instruction to change the consignee that was initially the Guinean company to Montserrado Group of Industries, a company registered and based in Monrovia, Liberia. “Upon receiving the said instruction from the shipper/consignor the bill of lading was changed for a waybill with the name and destination of the new consignee, the Montserrado Group of Industries,” the shipping line claimed in their motion to drop it from the case.

“It was in accordance with these instructions from the shipper/consignor that the container was delivered to the Montserrado Group of Industries,” the court document quoted the shipping line unargued motion to drop it from the case. The parties agreed that the container was loaded on February 28, 2020, and later departed Istanbul, Turkey for Conakry, Guinean and was shipped to Guinea on March 1, 2020, by one Raze Arhaven, an Iranian born Turkish national and general manager of Aria Gida MADDI Sanvet, a company based on Turkey. Bill of lading (BOL) is one of the most important documents in the shipping process.

To ship any goods, a bill of lading is required and acts as a receipt and a contract. A completed BOL legally shows that the carrier has received the freight as described and is obligated to deliver that freight in good condition to the consignee. The information in the bill of lading is critical as it directs the actions of personnel all along the route of the shipment – where it’s going, the piece count, how it is billed, and how it is to be handled on the dock and trailers.

The consignee has to check whether the shipment is collected on delivery which means that the driver will collect the cost of the merchandise on delivery of the freight. But in the case of the container, it was originally bound for Conakry, Guinean, and later transferred to the Montserrado Group of Industries by Arhaven according to the original bill of lading that was agreed by the three parties, Arhaven, CMA-CGM and the Guinean company, Agid Sariu Seige Medina Dispenser BP. It is against this backdrop that the Guinean company claiming that the original bill of lading was issued correctly, but the containers were routed incorrectly to the Montserrado Group of Industries based in Monrovia, Liberia, of which their lawsuit now involves the shipping line, CMA-CGM. Initially, the government placed a stay order on the release of the container pending an investigation into a complaint of criminality filed by a Guinean Company, Agid Sariu Seige Medina Dispenser BP against the Montserrado Group of Industries.

But the container was reportedly tracked in Madrid, Spain after Raze changed the original bill of lading that contained the ownership and destination of the Guinean Company before being shipped to Kaffel, which the Guinean company is holding the government responsible for allegedly facilitating theft by Kaffel. “There is no criminality on the part of Kaffel or the government facilitating anything; we did not inform the Guinean company when we released the container because their claim of criminality was far from the truth and therefore we have to release it to Kaffel,” the government had earlier argued.

Author

  • Anthony Kokoi is a young Liberian sports writer who has an ever-growing passion for the development of the game of football (soccer) and other sports. For the past few years, he has been passionately engaged in reporting the developments of the game in the country. He is an associate member of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL). He is a promoter of young talents. He also writes match reports and makes an analysis of Liberian Football.

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