(CN) - Billionaire William Koch imprisoned and interrogated one of his executives at a secluded Aspen ranch, under a sheriff's guard, because the executive suspected Koch's companies of tax evasion, the employee claims in Federal Court.
Kirby Martensen, of Berkeley, Calif., says he was an executive for several companies owned and controlled by William Koch, including Oxbow Carbon & Minerals Inc. (OCM) and Oxbow Carbon & Minerals International (OCM International), until March, when he says he was suddenly fired.
OCM and OCM International are part of the Oxbow Group, an energy development holding company based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Koch founded the Oxbow Group in the 1980s after leaving his family's oil-refining conglomerate, Koch Industries.
Oxbow Carbon is the largest distributor of petroleum coke in the world, with annual shipments of nearly 11 million metric tons to U.S., Asian, European, Latin American and Pacific Rim markets, according to the company's website.
Martensen says OCM International promoted him to senior vice president, Asia, in 2011, and he relocated to the company's Singapore office with promises that his family's expenses and his children's education would be covered.
"Martensen understood that the goal of this assignment was to help legitimize OCM's Bahamian shell company," according to the complaint in the Northern District of California. "This included, but was not limited to, discussions and negotiations concerning the sourcing of pet-coke and sales to Asian customers. Plaintiff was informed that the move to Asia was for tax purposes. More than 75 percent of Oxbow's fuel-grade petroleum coke export profits were derived from its Asian trading business. Plaintiff has information and believes this relocation was part of a plan being implemented to evade paying taxes to the United States on profits in excess of $200,000,000 per year.
"In 2011, William Koch was notified of an anonymous letter alleging that Martensen and another employee Larry Black had been engaging in theft, breaches of fiduciary duty, fraud, and self-dealing against the Oxbow companies. Based on this information William Koch directed a lengthy comprehensive forensic review of thousands of documents, including the written corporate communications files (letters, memoranda, electronic corporate communications, etc) of several employees, including Martensen.
"Based on this surreptitious review of plaintiff's emails and voice communications Koch learned that Martensen and others expressed concern of the legality of what they were doing on behalf of Oxbow and their distrust of upper management. As a result, William Koch promoted and implemented a plan to intimidate and discredit plaintiff for the purpose of chilling his speech and damaging his credibility." (Parentheses in complaint).
Koch is the only defendant named in the lawsuit.
The billionaire allegedly used "false pretenses" to lure Martensen and other executives to Bear Ranch, his property near Aspen, in March.
Martensen says the property was secluded, accessible only through a private road, and had no cellphone reception or other connections with the outside world.
After Martensen flew in from San Francisco, Koch drove him and other employees to Bear Ranch to spend the night, according to the complaint.
Martensen describes the ensuing odyssey in the complaint: