HOUSTON (CN) - A flight attendant on an energy company's private jet claims Democratic Republic of the Congo officials detained her for six weeks when she was caught up in the company president's attempt to buy more than half a ton of gold from a Congolese rebel leader.
Kelly Shannon sued CAMAC International Corp., its president Kase Lawal, the head of its Nigerian operations Mukaila Lawal, and Edward Carlos St. Mary, whom she describes as a longtime friend of Lawal and "an international diamond merchant specializing in rough diamonds," in Harris County Court.
Shannon says that during her 42-day ordeal, Congolese officials confined her to a hotel in Goma, took her passport, allowed her minimal contact with her family and interrogated her.
Shannon claims she "was forced to remain in Goma without any certainty that she would be permitted to leave" until CAMAC paid $3 million to Congolese officials, and she was freed.
CAMAC International is a Houston-based "global energy company" that develops oil properties in Africa, according to the complaint. It maintains offices in London, Lagos, Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Shannon's 12-page complaint details the back story leading up to her detention in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"On December 3, 2010, defendants Kase Lawal and St. Mary met with a third party, including former National Basketball Association player Dikembe Mutumbo, in New York City to discuss a deal to buy and resell over 1,000 pounds of Congolese gold," according to the complaint. "Defendant Kase Lawal was to finance the purchase which was expected to result in a profit in excess of $10 million.
"On December 9, 2010, defendant Kase Lawal sent defendant St. Mary to Nairobi in order to meet the purported owner of the gold, Eddy Michel Malonga.
"On December 15, 2010, defendant St. Mary and several other associates inspected the gold at a customs warehouse in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya.
"On December 17, 2010, defendant St. Mary, through use of CAMAC's funds, paid $4.8 million to Malonga as an initial payment for the gold.
"Shortly thereafter, discrepancies were uncovered by defendants with respect to paperwork provided by the purported customs officials in Kenya. Moreover, Malonga severed all contact with defendants after claiming that the $4.8 million was for a 'General.'
"In late December 2010, defendants ultimately discovered that Malonga was not the actual owner of the gold. Rather the gold was owned by General Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese rebel leader who is known to have exploited minerals in that region.
"Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court, but still enjoys the protection of the Congolese government. The United Nations Security Council prohibits business activities with Ntaganda due to his involvement in sale of counterfeit gold.
"Despite learning that the proposed transaction involved Ntaganda, the defendants continued to pursue the arranged purchase after Malonga resurfaced.
"On January 19, 2011, CAMAC employee Alexander Ehinmola was sent to Goma and met with two army colonels who transported him to a safe house to view two metal boxes that supposedly contained gold.
"After defendant St. Mary briefed Kase Lawal on the details of that visit, Kase Lawal agreed to proceed with the transaction.
"Subsequently, defendants prepared two separate bags containing the remaining amount of currency to complete the purchase and placed them onboard CAMAC's private aircraft."