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Backlash against head of MFS Shipmanagement begins, police called

Police are to make a visit today to a property rented by Greek shipowner Charalampos “Babis” Ziogas, less than 24 hours after Splash reported the news that Ziogas and his company MFS Shipmanagement are being sued for “fraud” in the US.

The plaintiffs, in a complaint filed with a New York court, allege the shipowner entered into real-estate contracts while aware that vessels in the MFS fleet was about to be foreclosed on by creditors. MFS Shipmanagement is among the other defendants included in the complaint.

On May 8, 2015, Ziogas entered into a contract to lease a property in Greenwich, Connecticut from the plaintiffs, for which he agreed to pay $195,500 over an 11-month period. Just a month after signing the lease, MFS’ handysize bulker Judi (was Altai; 18,320 dwt, built 2000) was reportedly sold in Capetown for $2.1m by private treaty after the owner failed to pay the mortgage on the ship to its bank, plus payments to other creditors including crew.

The plaintiff alleges that Ziogas and his wife are barring him from visiting the house, and Splash has been informed that the landlord intends to visit the property with the Greenwich Police today.  “You may not block access to the property. Get your $700 lawyer there. You are ruining the gardens and meadow… You will be arrested if you interfere,” plaintiff Gary Ryder told Ziogas and his wife in an email on Thursday, seen by Splash.

Meanwhile, members of the shipping community have commented on the proceedings. A former executive of a now-defunct heavy-lift shipping and project cargo shipping company told Splash his firm had had a vessel on timecharter from a company controlled by Ziogas, which was arrested by creditors for $7m. The executive commented that Ziogas is “not an investment banker but a simple thief”, who was happy to collect hire but didn’t pay his banks or crew “and left them foodless”.

Ziogas’ lease of the Connecticut property was signed after lobbying by an employee of Halstead Properties, part of luxury real estate group Terra Holdings, who claimed to know Ziogas and his wife personally, and represented to the plaintiffs that Ziogas possessed assets of “over $200m”, had had a “shipping empire for decades” and collected “priceless” Chinese art.

Splash reported in July 2015 that 11 of MFS Shipmanagement’s vessels had been detained in ports around the world. Almost all of the company’s vessels have been sold at auction since then. Today, the Athens-based company is beneficial owner of just one small bulker, Sider Pink (19,100 dwt, built 2006), and commercial manager of another, Navaho (17,400 dwt, built 1995), according to Equasis.

The plaintiffs have also asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus to require the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the US Department of Homeland Security to “purge” the address in Connecticut of “illegal aliens”, who it is claimed are living and working in the rental property.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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