Firm to Pay $32.4 Million for Smuggling Scheme

     DALLAS (CN) – A Houston-based energy company must pay more than $32.4 million to a airplane leasing company after one of the energy firm’s officials flew a leased plane on what authorities say was a gold-smuggling run in the Congo.
     On Friday, Dallas County jurors awarded the money to Southlake Aviation, company president David Disiere, Teresa Disiere and Disiere Partners, after they determined that officials with CAMAC International Corp. flew Southlake’s Gulfstream V aircraft to the African country without authorization.
     The plane was detained by Congolese authorities in February 2011.
     Southlake alleged the gold-smuggling flight was organized by third-party defendant Kase Lawal, a CAMAC company director and, according to the Dallas Morning News, a member of one of President Barack Obama’s trade advisory committees.
     It alleged the proposal to purchase the gold in the Congo originated from third-party defendant and former professional basketball player Dikembe Motumbo.
     “On information and belief, at the time of the seizure, the Gulfstream was loaded with $5 million in gold and cash,” Southlake’s amended petition stated. “The Gulfstream has subsequently been released by the Congolese authorities.”
     Southlake argued the flight was a breach of the aircraft lease, that CAMAC agreed to not operate the aircraft in “any area of hostilities” or countries where trade is specifically restricted by the United States government or United Nations.
     It said that in November of 2010, the U.S. Department of State had renewed travel advisories to the country, warning of violence, crime and health and transportation concerns in the war-torn country. It said that in the same month, the U.N. Security Council renewed resolutions restricting the illicit trade of natural mineral resources from the country, including gold.
     Due to the seizure, Southlake defaulted on its $43 million loan on the aircraft and creditor VFS Financing, a subsidiary of General Electric, sued in Dallas County Court in March 2011. Southlake filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection that same month.
     David Disiere never met the Lawal brothers, according to a written statement. He had testified that CAMAC claimed it would only use the jet to travel between its Houston headquarters and its oil operations in Nigeria.
     “Twelve citizens saw through a smoke-and- mirrors defense put on by the CAMAC’s attorneys and clearly found that CAMAC caused my company to lose a $43 million dollar aircraft in a greedy scheme that violated the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act,” Disiere said after the verdict. Other third-party defendants named in Southlake’s lawsuit include CAMAC Aviation LLC, and Mickey Lawal, CAMAC’s vice president of African operations.

%d bloggers like this: