FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (CN) - A military contractor says in court that a civilian staged an armed raid on its plant in Kabul, Afghanistan, and stole 90 prefabricated buildings.
MAKS Inc. General Trading & Contracting Co. of Kuwait says that James Pearson entered its Kabul compound "without authorization, for the purpose of assaulting MAKS personnel and stealing MAKS property."
The complaint filed in Washington County Supreme Court charges trespass to land, trespass to chattel, conversion and negligence.
MAKS is joined as a plaintiff with two Indians who supervised the plant and unknown workers who endured the alleged early-morning raid in October 2009.
Pearson allegedly worked for EOD Technology Inc., which had a contract with the U.S. Air Force to supply temporary housing and office buildings at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul. MAKS says EODT subcontracted it to build the actual units.
EODT, based in suburban Knoxville, Tenn., provides security, munitions management, construction, logistics and disaster response "in austere and hostile environments," according to its website. Founded by two retired U.S. Marines, it lists clients that include the U.S. Department of State, Department of Defense and Army Corps of Engineers, as well as defense contractor SAIC and oilfield services firm Halliburton.
MAKS says it and EODT had two contracts: one for the prefab units, called RLBs or relocatable buildings, and another for security services, under which EODT protected the MAKS plant and personnel in Kabul. Both were signed in 2009.
The companies allegedly agreed that U.S. law would govern the contracts. MAKS says that the Washington County Supreme Court is an appropriate venue for its case because Pearson lives in Greenwich, N.Y., a rural community about an hour northeast of Albany.
EODT and MAKS "became embroiled in a dispute" over performance and payment on the prefab contract, which led to the alleged raid on Oct. 23, 2009, according to the complaint.
Early that morning, "defendant Pearson and others invaded MAKS's compound for the purpose of stealing RLBs," the contractor says.
The "armed trespass" put co-plaintiffs Gopalakrishna Pillai Ajeesh Kumar Kammarayil and Mohammed Azad Shabbir, both citizens of India and plant supervisors, as well as the John Does "in fear of bodily harm" if they interfered, according to the complaint.
Pearson allegedly had a duty of care to the unarmed civilians as a private security contractor.
"Defendant Pearson's actions were not justified under the contracts between MAKS and EODT or the laws of the United States," the complaint states. "Defendant Pearson's acts were, in fact, tortious and unlawful.
"Not only were Defendant Pearson's acts not justified under the laws of the United States, Defendant Pearson's acts were negligent under governing rules of engagement governing private, U.S. contractors that were promulgated by the United States Armed Forces operating in the Afghanistan theater of operations."
MAKS seeks an award of the value of the allegedly stolen 90 prefab units, plus damages for lost income, labor force disruptions and "injuries to MAKS's reputation caused by cash-flow difficulties when the RLBs were removed without payment."
The company also wants $3 million in punitive damages "to punish defendant Pearson for the conversion he perpetrated and to deter such conduct in the future." Pearson's actions "demonstrated a reckless and wanton disregard" for MAKS's property and personnel, according to the complaint.
The company is represented by Manhattan attorney Audrey Bedolis.
MAKS filed a federal complaint against EODT in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2010. Many of the allegations in that lawsuit mirror those in the Pearson complaint.
Pearson was not named as a defendant, but two company officials were, along with three security guards identified as Jack Does. The John Does mentioned as co-plaintiffs in the Pearson complaint also were parties to that lawsuit. Court documents reportedly indicate that company has shielded the identities of these Afghan workers to prevention retaliation from al-Qaida.
Under the contract with EODT, MAKS said it was to be paid $2.2 million for delivery of 224 prefab units built from shipping containers. The 90 units allegedly taken from MAKS were hauled away on 15 flatbed trucks to Bagram Airfield.