NewLead CEO accused of withholding documents, plaintiff calls for his deposition

NewLead CEO accused of withholding documents, plaintiff calls for his deposition

NewLead’s CEO Michael Zolotas has been accused of withholding documents and must produce his hard drive as evidence, according to a motion filed by plaintiff TransAsia Commodities, which has called for Zolotas to be deposed along with three other NewLead executives.

TransAsia in January filed a civil case against NewLead JMEG, its chief executive Jan Berkowitz and Michael Zolotas. The lawsuit, which Splash has covered extensively, is currently being heard at the Supreme Court of the County of New York.

The London-based trader seeks $6.2m in compensation over a failed agreement to buy 110,000 tonnes of coal from NewLead JMEG, a coal mining joint venture with NewLead Holdings. The coal was never delivered to the trader, which alleges that NewLead JMEG signed the multimillion-dollar sales agreements to inflate its share price and to obtain credit from banks. The defendants deny the allegations.

TransAsia accuses Zolotas of not having produced sufficient emails from his private Yahoo email account during the discovery process conducted earlier this year. The CEO produced 50 such emails to the court; however, an analysis of a hard drive belonging to Zolotas’ co-defendant Jan Berkowitz showed at least 1,442 emails were sent between the two defendants using the Yahoo address, but were not produced in court by the NewLead CEO.

TransAsia’s counsel on Friday filed a motion to compel and for sanctions against NewLead Holdings and Michael Zolotas with the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

The plaintiff’s motion reminds Judge Charles Ramos of his own words: “This is very simple. You ask your client to produce whatever there is. Your client says, ‘This is all we got’. You get an affidavit signed by a client swearing to me that this is all there is, and if that affidavit is false, somebody goes to jail. It’s as simple as that,” the judge told the defendants’ counsel in a court transcript dated April 13.

TransAsia has called for Zolotas to be deposed, along with NewLead’s investment relations/communications manager Elisa Gerouki, its claims manager Spyridon Theodoropoulos and its chief financial officer (CFO) Lena Despotopoulou.

Gerouki, Theodoropoulos and Despotopoulou were served with notices of depositions on October 30 and are to be deposed at the New York offices of Cozen O’ Connor, the plaintiff’s counsel, on December 1, 2 and 3 respectively, according to the court filing.

TransAsia’s attorney Melissa Brill said in an affidavit that NewLead had denied Gerouki and Theodoropoulos were employees of the company in an email sent to her on October 23 by NewLead’s lawyer George Chalos.

In the email, Chalos alleges that Gerouki and Theodoropoulos are respectively employed by non-parties NewLead Shipping SA and NewLead Bulkers SA, and therefore cannot be deposed. The plaintiff’s counsel alleges that Chalos “implicitly denied” that Despotopoulou was an employee of NewLead Holdings in a later email, submitted by Brill as an exhibit.

In the email correspondence submitted to the court, NewLead’s counsel states that the executives’ deposition in New York is “odd” and “not realistic”.

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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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Gary J. Palys
    November 24, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Jan Berkowitz hides behind bankruptcy already. How long will it take Michael Zolotas to do the same? I think both should be in prison for the con games they have played for years that destroyed many investors…