Allegations of Fraud and Forgery Shake Unimed Glory S.A. and the Republic of Vanuatu
Hong Kong, 16 October 2023 – In a developing story, Unimed Glory S.A. and the Republic of Vanuatu are facing a criminal investigation and legal proceedings regarding fishing quotas for Jack Mackerel. This case has garnered significant attention in Vanuatu, a South Pacific island country, as allegations of fraud and forgery have been brought against a state minister and a group of prominent Greek businessmen, including Panagiotis Laskaridis, Giannis Giannakakis, and Eleftheria Kallini.
The controversy can be traced back to 2010 when Unimed Glory S.A., a company registered in Panama and owned by Mr. Panagiotis, acquired the Jack Mackerel quota assigned to Vanuatu under the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) in perpetuity for an astonishingly low price of $2 per ton. However, the legitimacy of the agreement has been called into question. It was executed without proper authority by Mr. Emelee and purportedly ratified by Mr. Marcelino Pipite, a former Vanuatu minister. Notably, Mr. Pipite denied any involvement and asserts that the initials on the agreement are not his, suggesting the possibility of forgery.
In a press release on 04 October 2023, former Vanuatu Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marc Ati, stated: “Vanuatu has not received any of the money supposed to be paid under the agreement, which now amounts to over $550,000 US Dollars (approximately VT55m). Unimed Glory SA claims that the money was paid to Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Co Ltd, at their request. Vanuatu has commenced a claim in the Supreme Court of Vanuatu to recover that money. Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Co Ltd admits receiving the money, but the claim is being defended on the basis that the money was paid to it for some other services and that the invoices sent by Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Co Ltd to Unimed Glory SA referencing quota payments under the agreement were actually false and issued under the instructions of Unimed Glory SA.” It should be noted that Tuna Fishing (Vanuatu) Co Ltd is owned by Mr. Emelee.
A statement from former Minister Mr. Tony Nari has further undermined the credibility of Unimed Glory’s legal position. Unimed Glory relied on a single letter dated 08 October 2015 in which the former Minister Nari recognized the disputed agreement. Mr. Nari was appointed by Mr. Emelee, who was the Minister for Agriculture back in 2015 and left the country for a few days, as the acting minister of Agriculture. However, when interviewed about this letter, Mr. Nari stated: “While I do have a vague memory of a situation where Christophe Emelee, who was outside the country at the time, urgently requested me to sign certain papers that could not wait for his return, I was not informed about the content or nature of those papers. Consequently, I had no knowledge of any agreement with Unimed Glory S.A. I have no doubt that the letter dated 8 October 2015 that you inquired about was one of the documents I was asked to sign by the Minister and his advisors.”
Criminal proceedings have been initiated against Mr. Panagiotis Laskaridis and Mr. Christophe Emelee, among many others. Key individuals implicated in the case, including former ministers, have been interviewed by the police, with revelations that they had no knowledge of the Unimed Agreement. Mr. Pipite has disclaimed any involvement or knowledge in the alleged agreement, and preliminary reports from handwriting experts reinforced Pipite’s claims. Investigators are currently focusing on establishing evidence linking Unimed’s Ultimate Beneficial Owners and Directors to the fraudulent activities, and a substantial amount of evidence has been collected.
Simultaneously, legal proceedings are underway in London where the Republic is gaining ground. The High Court has issued an order stipulating that the Republic’s fishing quota of Jack Mackerel for the year 2023 be sold, with the proceeds held in an escrow account until the court determines the legality of Unimed’s agreements to sell the Republic’s quotas. This measure has been taken to safeguard the Republic’s valuable fishing quota.
A significant development in the case is the Court of Appeal in London granting permission to the Republic to appeal an injunction imposed by the High Court of England. This injunction has prevented the Republic from independently selling its fishing quota of Jack Mackerel. The Court of Appeal will examine whether the High Court had the authority to issue the injunction, considering the Republic’s claim that the agreement waiving State immunity is a forgery.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard before Christmas this year. If successful, the Republic will regain the freedom to sell its future quotas until the High Court determines the authenticity of the agreements with Unimed. The full hearing on this matter is anticipated to take place in the middle of 2024, following the disclosure of documents between the parties and the exchange of witness statements and expert evidence. The trial will be held in London.
This case has attracted significant attention due to its potential ramifications for the fishing industry and the legal implications surrounding the alleged fraud and forgery. As the criminal investigation progresses and the legal proceedings unfold, the spotlight will remain on Unimed Glory S.A., the Republic of Vanuatu, and the individuals involved in this complex and highly scrutinized matter.
The outcome of this case will have far-reaching consequences not only for the fishing industry but also for the reputation and integrity of both Unimed Glory S.A. and the Republic of Vanuatu. If the allegations of fraud and forgery are proven true, it could lead to severe penalties for those involved and a loss of trust in their business practices.