$20 Million Claim Based on Forgery, Bank Says

     HOUSTON (CN) – A Texas bank claims Thailand’s Minister of Energy has sued it for more than $20 million because a Houston oil company used phony guarantee letters to back a bid for oil concessions in Thailand.
     Amegy Bank of Texas sued Houston-based SITA Oil Exploration House and its owner Sawapam Bhattacharjee, also of Houston, in Harris County Court.
     “In and around the year 2007, defendants submitted a bid to Thailand’s Minister of Energy for petroleum concessions to explore tracts of land in the region,” the complaint states.
     “SITA was awarded two of the concessions, for which it executed contracts with the Minister of Energy of Thailand in early 2008.
     “As part of the bidding process, defendants presented to the Minister of Energy two ‘Letters of Guarantee’ (the ‘Guarantees’) that ostensibly obligated ‘Amegy Bank of Texas’ to pay Thailand more than $20 million if SITA failed to comply with the terms of the concession contracts.”
     Amegy claims the guarantees included counterfeit copies of Amegy trademarks.
     “In February 2012, the Minister of Energy served on plaintiff a lawsuit it filed in Thailand against SITA as the concessionaire and against plaintiff as the purported guarantor of SITA’s performance under the forged guarantees,” the complaint states.
     “Neither Bhattacharjee nor SITA has filed an answer in that suit, leaving plaintiff as the sole appearing defendant.
     “While it is unclear what damages the country has actually incurred as a result of SITA’s failure to perform, Thailand seeks more than $20 million from plaintiff under the forged guarantees.
     “Plaintiff is vigorously defending the suit.”
     Amegy says the guarantees are obvious forgeries, for five reasons.
     “First, the documents were supposedly issued by ‘Amegy Bank of Texas,’ which is a trade name instead of plaintiff’s legal name ‘Amegy Bank National Association,’ which it uses in legal documents,” Amegy says.
     Second, the bank says, it “does not and has never issued ‘letters of guarantee.'”
     “Third, the ‘Guarantees’ bear the signature of one ‘D.V. Moore’ as ‘Senior Vice President’ for Amegy Bank of Texas. No one by the name of D.V. Moore has ever worked for plaintiff,” the complaint states.
     Fourth, the address listed as the bank’s office in the guarantees has never been its address, Amegy says.
     “Finally, the date of the ‘Guarantees,’ January 17, 2008, could not have been correct in that the documents refer in the past tense to the petroleum concessions that were awarded after that date, on January 21, 2008,” according to the complaint.
     The bank adds: “That the ‘Guarantees’ are rank forgeries is further evidenced by the fact that they are riddled with typographical errors.”
     Amegy Bank of Texas, which says it has already spent $50,000 defending against Thailand’s lawsuit, seeks damages for forgery, trademark infringement, gross negligence and unjust enrichment.
     The bank also wants the guarantees declared phony and invalid.
     It is represented by Michelle Brockway with Strasburger & Price in Houston.

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