MANHATTAN (CN) – Tyco Telecommunications says it paid more than $1 million for a security service to protect it from Somali pirates as Tyco’s slow-moving boats lay underwater cable off the Horn of Africa, and the security patrols failed to show up for three weeks, then tried to hire a subcontractor based in Iran, in violation of the U.S. economic embargo.
Tyco Telecommunications sued Peterson & Associates Consulting, of Alpharetta Ga., and K&M Global Security Solutions, of Serbia, in Manhattan Federal Court.
Tyco says it was forced to delay the project, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in unanticipated operating and dock costs, and millions more for alternative security arrangements. And it says the defendant companies and their principles, Matt Peterson, Dale Kneeland Sr. and Michael Murrell, have refused to return the money they demanded in advance.
Piracy off Africa’s East Coast and in the Gulf of Aden has escalated since the collapse of Somalia’s last national government in 1991.
Tyco Telecom says it responded by “hardening” its ships against boarding, installing razor wire and sealing access points. It also hired armed shipboard guards and developed contingency plans to meet the Somali pirate threat.
But Tyco said the situation changed dramatically between April 8 and 12, as it made final plans to install more than 8,000 miles of undersea fiber-optic cable connecting South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Djibouti, Egypt and India.
The high-profile project was to lay the first cable to provide broadband to East African countries that previously had relied on expensive and unreliable satellite telecommunications services.
On April 8, pirates captured the cargo-laden Maersk Alabama. After the U.S. Navy intervened, ultimately capturing one pirate and killing two others on April 12, Somali pirates vowed revenge, particularly on U.S.-flagged vessels -such as Tyco’s.
Tyco says it was particularly worried about the Tyco Resolute and Teneo, which would be working off the coast of Kenya, just south of Somalia. When that job was completed, the ships would work off the coast of Somalia itself.
Unwilling to risk the loss of personnel or property, Tyco says it hired the defendants.
What followed was worse than a comedy of errors, with gross incompetence accompanied by several false and misleading claims, according to the complaint.
Peterson & Associates holds itself out as a “global leader in bringing maritime companies together with experienced counter piracy firms,” which K&M Global Security claimed to be, Tyco says.
But Tyco claims the two companies had no such abilities, and scant experience in maritime security. Only upon receipt of Tyco’s money did they begin to “cobble together an ad hoc collection of men and material for the task,” the complaint states.
Tyco says the defendants made several excuses, including blaming inclement weather on their failure to show up.
It claims the defendants failed to arrange visas for the international crew they assembled, but left stranded in Istanbul, 1,000 miles from the ships they were meant to protect; and failed to procure weapons, safety gear, night vision goggles and other equipment necessary to execute the contract.
They failed even to secure an adequate escort vessel, at one point trying to secure an undersized and decrepit tugboat for the mission, only to have its captain and crew flatly refuse to go, the complaint states.
Finally, in desperation, the defendants tried to hire a vessel sailing under the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which would have violated the U.S. embargo unless a special temporary license were secured from the U.S. Treasury Department, which the defendants failed to do, Tyco says.
Finally, Tyco says, the defendants willfully hid their inability to fulfill the contract in an effort to induce additional payments from Tyco, preventing it from securing competent alternative protection.
Tyco demands more than $1 million, plus interest and costs. It is represented by Mark Grannis, with Wiltshire & Grannis of Washington, D.C.