More shots have been fired in the ongoing court case between NewLead Holdings and TransAsia Commodities. The Greek shipping company has accused the commodity trader of defamation and harassment, and has pointed the finger at co-defendant Jan Berkowitz for the company’s failure to honour a coal contract.
“Serge Turko, the principal of TransAsia Commodities, Ltd (i.e. – the real party in interest from Plaintiff’s side), has concocted and alleged a series of wild and unsupportable tort claims to purposefully harass and embarrass defendant Michael Zolotas [CEO of NewLead Holdings], and his business interests,” defence counsel George Chalos said in an affirmation filed on Tuesday with the Supreme Court of New York County.
TransAsia seeks $6.2m in compensation after NewLead JMEG sold it 110,000 tonnes of coal that was never delivered. The London-based trader in January filed a civil case against NewLead Holdings, Michael Zolotas, coal-mining joint venture NewLead JMEG and its chief executive Jan Berkowitz. Splash has covered the case extensively.
TransAsia alleges that NewLead JMEG signed the multimillion-dollar sales agreements to inflate NewLead Holdings’ share price and to obtain credit from banks. The defendants deny the allegations.
In late November, the plaintiff accused Zolotas of withholding documents from the court and filed a motion to compel him to produce his computer hard drive as evidence, and for him to be deposed with three other NewLead executives.
The defence has fired back, calling Turko’s claims “meritless” and saying Zolotas, NewLead Holdings and NewLead JMEG have been the only parties in the court case to consistently “never sought to shirk from their legal obligations”.
“The volume of discovery conducted to date in this case make clear that allegations of fraud and misconduct place defendant, Jan Berkowitz … , squarely in the bulls-eye of Plaintiff’s claims and claims to be lodged by undersigned defendants,” Chalos said in his affirmation.
“Recognizing the gravity of the situation, and much like the legal liability avoidance technique employed by Mr. Turko and TransAsia Commodities Ltd, Berkowitz filed for bankruptcy on the eve of his deposition in this case,” the defence continued.
The defence rubbished TransAsia’s request for Zolotas to produce his personal computer hard drives and said “prior counsel was satisfied that the disclosure requirements had been fully met” in discovery of emails from Zolotas’ personal Yahoo email address.
“[The] Plaintiff has failed to identify a single “relevant and non-privileged” document in any other production which was not already produced by Mr. Zolotas,” Chalos said.
The three NewLead executives who TransAsia wishes to depose also filed affirmations, explaining to the court why it would not be practical for them to travel to New York for deposition. They instead offered to make themselves available for video deposition from Athens, where all three are based.
The plaintiff had previously called for NewLead’s investment relations/communications manager Elisa Gerouki, its claims manager Spyridon Theodoropoulos and its chief financial officer (CFO) Lena Despotopoulou to be deposed at the New York offices of Cozen O’ Connor, the plaintiff’s counsel, on December 1, 2 and 3 respectively.