FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CN) – A dive instructor has sued his business partner, accusing him of letting their company ship military-grade scuba equipment to a "known militant" in North Africa despite a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that the shipment was restricted.
In his lawsuit in Broward County, Florida, Shawn Robotka says his business partner allowed their company, Kaizen Solutions International, to execute an illegal shipment of rebreather dive equipment to a Libyan militant.
According to the complaint, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce met with the company in August 2016 and warned that the shipment was unlawful. The meeting is said to have taken place after the company asked the Department of Commerce about the legality of the order.
Robotka claims his business partner, Peter Sotis, did not attend the meeting but was "informed afterward that rebreathers are a controlled item and that government agencies prohibited the sale of such items to Libya."
Rebreather equipment and diver-propulsion systems supposedly contained in the shipment are considered military grade and suited for use in stealth diving operations. They are restricted from foreign shipment to Libya and other nations under military arms embargoes, Robotka says.
According to the complaint, filed Dec. 22, Sotis "was aware the Libyan customer was a known militant in the region" but allowed the shipment to be sent anyway.
Robotoka meanwhile claims Sotis is liable for "additional wrongful action," including unauthorized use of Kaizen's funds, fraudulently inducing Robotka to loan $44,000 to the company, and "mislabeling scuba tanks" to feign compliance with Department of Transportation requirements.
The complaint says the FBI sought to seize the illegal shipment from Kaizen on Aug. 24.
Sotis responded to the lawsuit in a statement issued to Courthouse News.
"As to the complaint filed by Robotka, the allegations are absolutely false and I look forward to proving them wrong in court," Sotis said.
"Mr. Robotka has failed to include any evidence to prove a single fact he has claimed in his filings," Sotis stated.
According to Sotis, Robotka is a minority shareholder who was supposed be an employee of the company, but last month he "stopped showing up at work."
"I have evidence which shows that on Dec. 21, [Robotka] withdrew all of the funds from the companies’ bank accounts. He did this without telling me. The very day after he cleared out the bank accounts, he filed his complaint. Draw what conclusions you like from this action," Sotis said.
"I believe Mr. Robotka is doing all this to get some kind of advantage over me or to force a settlement. I was not aware, before he did this, that there was even a dispute," Sotis said.
Sotis said he plans on defending himself "vigorously" against Robotka's allegations and intends to bring his own lawsuit against Robotka, which will include claims to recover company funds he says Robotka took.
Neither the FBI nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement has responded to a request for confirmation that the Kaizen shipment was seized.
Robotka's lawsuit seeks damages for breach of the company's operating agreement, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent misrepresentation. He also requests injunctive relief, an accounting and a court order dissolving Kaizen Solutions and appointing a receiver to oversee liquidation of its assets and the assets of its related companies and subsidiaries, including Add Helium and Oncourse Training.
On Add Helium's website, Sotis is described as a founder of the company.
Court records indicate that Sotis is an 80 percent owner of Kaizen, while Robotka holds a 20 percent interest.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.