Press-Republican

March 17, 2012

Verdant leaders named in lawsuit

รข Company slated to fund Laurentian Aerospace accused of misappropriation of precious gems

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Top officials of the company that is supposed to provide Laurentian Aerospace funding are among several defendants in a lawsuit filed recently in Texas.

According to the Courthouse News Service, Verdant Capital Group CEO Eric Jergensen and Board Chairman Joseph Homsy are among those named in a lawsuit filed by Lawrence Lester, an executive officer of Seattle-based Decagon Company Ltd.

The suit alleges they are among several parties involved in the misappropriation of five large mine-cut rubies worth an estimated $1.8 billion that are the historical property of the Buddhist people of Thailand.

Jergensen said Friday night that he couldn't comment on the suit, that he hadn't seen it yet.

Laurentian Aerospace Corporation Chief Financial Officer Andrew Edwards said it doesn't affect its financing deal with Verdant.

"The management of Laurentian have discussed the matter with Verdant, and based on the explanation that was provided to us, we're satisfied that this lawsuit should have no impact on the financing of our project whatsoever," he said.

"Verdant has continued to reaffirm their commitment to the Laurentian project, and they have indicated to us that they expect to be in a position to proceed with the finalization of the financing in the near future."

Jergensen said they are still working on the financing for the $175 million aircraft-repair-and-maintenance facility that would bring many jobs to the area.

"We're still very enthusiastic about the project," he said. "We think it would be great for Plattsburgh and for the entire region."

DECAGON HAD TITLE

The rubies were transferred to Lester in 2001 by a religious order in Bangkok, Thailand. The intention was to develop and secure funds for project developments in Thailand and the United States.

After several years, Lester informed the Thai officials he was unable to secure funds unless Decagon had official title to the gems.

"Therefore, in 2009, the Abbott of the Buddhist Group issued a transfer of title to Decagon Company Limited so that ownership would comply with banking policies requiring ownership as a condition to legally encumbering such an asset," according to the suit.

Lester claims Decagon was approached by Verdant Technology Solutions in September 2010. He was told Verdant had a existing and proven relationship with a financially qualified lender that could provide a loan secured by the artifacts.

That loan was to take place after an analysis of the collection by the Gemological Institute of America and a subsequent valuation by the lender's expert.

Lester said a deal to begin funding was reached Oct. 14, 2010. To protect Decagon, he included an amendment that "made it clear that the title to the Thai artifacts would, at all times, remain in Decagon and would in no way be compromised."

'APPARENTLY DELIVERED'

The gems were transported to the institute in New York City by the Custom Critical Division of Federal Express. Decagon reportedly also provided an agreement that no other party had authority to do anything with the gems other than what Decagon intended.

The gems were reportedly examined and reports "were apparently delivered to Verdant" on Dec. 13, 2010.

The suit claims that between Dec. 13 and 18, Jergensen and his team were able convince the institute to release the gems to them and Federal Express. The gems were then moved to a Wells Fargo bank in Texas.

Lester says he has been unable to get information about who has the gems. When he requested the gems be returned, he said he was told the lender's expert was on the way to Texas and the process of funding the loan was under way.

That, he said, was not true.

Lester also alleges the lender is a recognized group that deals with international criminal activity and is well known to international authorities. He also alleges they have told banking officials that it is the legal owner of the gems, Decagon is no longer involved as owner and has been compensated for the alleged sale of the stones.

SEEKS SAFEKEEPING

Lester is working to obtain affidavits that Jergensen arranged for the gems to be moved from the institute without his knowledge. He said he has had word from Federal Express that Jergensen ordered the move and it was paid for by one of his companies, Utah-based Contour Composites.

The suit alleges the gems were delivered to a Dr. Meguid, who the plaintiffs believe is the director of Selippos Technical Limited, the firm that was to make the loan to Decagon. It holds Federal Express Custom Critical Division as a defendant because the gems were supposed to be delivered to Aracely Seanz, of Wells Fargo Bank in Rosenberg, Texas.

Other defendants include Saenz, Meguid, Selippos Technical, Dr. Debashis Ghosh, Contour Composites and the Gemological Institute.

Lester is seeking a temporary restraining order "ordering any person or entity who has possession of any or more of the Thai artifacts ... not to move or dispose of such artifacts in any way but to preserve and retain them until the court can make arrangements for their safekeeping pursuant to further orders from the court."

In addition, Lester wants $500 million in punitive damages and a ruling that Decagon owns the rubies.

Email Dan Heath at: dheath@pressrepublican.com