Queries on Somali security deal
Story by KEVIN J. KELLEY in
New York and STEPHEN MBURU in Nairobi
Daily Nation - Kenya
US news reports indicate that a United States-based company recently chosen to end the threat of piracy off Somalia’s coast has a troubled financial history.
Top Cat Marine Security, which signed a two-year, $55 million deal with the Somalia government in Nairobi on Friday, failed at one point last year to meet its payroll, according to The Post and Courier, a newspaper published in Charleston, South Carolina, where Top Cat had been operating.
The paper also reported that Peter Casini, Top Cat’s head of research and development, "is tied to a string of failed business ventures and corporate bankruptcies." Casini took part along with Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi in the contract signing ceremony in Nairobi.
While Mr Casini denied the reports, he was reluctant to answer questions when contacted on the telephone.
On whether the company had failed to meet its payroll, he said: "No. You may be talking about the wrong company. Our company is Top Cat Design.''
However, contacted via e-mail for comment, Maryann Johnson, Top Cat's vice president for public relations, said the story "was written years ago, by a small town reporter whose sole source of information was a convicted felon. Topcat was never contacted directly for comment on this article".
Ms Johnson said: "Topcat remains financially secure and stable, with contracts around the world with some of the largest defence contractors."
She also said that Mr
Casini was head of research and development and had been awarded the notable
honour of being named one of the top three boat designers in the world.
She added that Mr Casini was an employee and not the owner of the company.
In signing the deal with Somalia, Casini said his company would target a mother ship off the Somali coast that is launching smaller craft to attack commercial vessels.
Top Cat has carried out contracts with government agencies in the US.
Last February, it delivered its Cobra Predator Patrol Boat to a counterterrorism team in the state of Maryland. The boat was purchased to help safeguard a nuclear power plant near Washington, DC.
A United States senator has also praised the effectiveness of Top Cat’s Cobra Predator.
Troubled boat builder leaves St. Stephen high and dry
Six months later, St. Stephen finds itself in court, and the split is not amicable.
The 150 boats that Top Cat Marine Security Inc. was expected to produce in its first year of operation out of an old electric plant off S.C. Highway 45 never materialized. Neither did the jobs.
Instead, the door to Top Cat is padlocked, the company is facing eviction, one of its top officials has been arrested on a charge of issuing a fraudulent check and a default judgment was issued against the company Monday.
"We got, in plain old English, bamboozled," said Vincent Chappell, CEO of Onyx International Inc., which shared warehouse space with Top Cat and tried to help the company with its relocation. "People opened up their doors, not just us, the entire community."
Top Cat's product and the timing of its move from New Jersey to St. Stephen seemed a good fit, Berkeley County Supervisor Jim Rozier said. The company was to design and make high-speed, bulletproof boats for law enforcement agencies, emergency response teams and counterterrorist organizations. It did not receive any incentive package to relocate.
Chief Operating Officer Peter Casini said in April that the move would create at least 75 jobs within the next year, a number expected to more than triple over two years.
It was good news for St. Stephen and the surrounding area, which lost 1,000 jobs during the past decade, Mayor Robert Hoffman said at the time.
Most recently, 300 workers lost their jobs after Georgia-Pacific shut its Russellville plywood plant in 2002.
The latest unemployment rate for Berkeley County was 4.6 percent in August.
Onyx International Inc. president Gwendolyn Crosby sees firsthand the demand for jobs in the area. Onyx is a small warehousing and distribution company. Crosby recently needed 50 people for a four-day job. More than 300 people showed up, she said, and she continued to get phone calls long after the job ended.
The apparent failure of Top Cat is "very disappointing. We're in an economically depressed area when you look at the job losses balanced with what's created. It's like having the rug pulled out from under you," Mayor Hoffman said.
Rozier and Berkeley County Economic Development Director John Scarborough said it appears the finances didn't work out for Top Cat. Hoffman said he didn't know what happened to the company after its promising debut.
"I went to investigate myself a couple of times, just to drop in and see what was going on, and I haven't been able to find anybody there," Hoffman said.
He's not the only person who's been interested in Top Cat.
"A lot of law enforcement people are looking for them, and I don't think it's about buying a boat," Crosby said.
Vendors and others who find the Top Cat door padlocked often stop at the Onyx office to ask if the boat company still is in business or when its employees will be there, she said.
Nobody from Top Cat showed up Monday in small claims court in Moncks Corner to contest a complaint Onyx filed against the company for nonpayment of services, including providing electricity. Judge David Brown entered a default judgment of $5,960.45 against Top Cat.
Top Cat's vice president of sales and contracts, Marianne Gillard, 36, is due in magistrate's court in St. Stephen today following her arrest last week. Gillard is accused of writing a $650 bad check drawn on a New Jersey bank. Gillard said the day after her arrest that she didn't want to comment and referred questions to company attorneys, who couldn't be reached for comment.
Eviction notices also have been filed in magistrate's court in Moncks Corner against Gillard and Casini, who rented houses in the Pinopolis area. The clerk's office said those notices haven't been served because Gillard and Casini couldn't be located.
The St. Stephen telephone number for Top Cat is not in service and no phone number is listed for Casini.
TOPCAT MARINE SECURITY INC. OWNER PETER CASINI HAS A HISTORY OF BANKRUPCY IN NEW JERSEY – USA
28 November, 2005
On Friday 24 November, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) has signed a two-year contract worth of US$ 55 million with Topcat Marine Security Inc. a company registered in Egg Harbor, New Jersey (NJ) USA. Topcat’s current address is unknown. Court documents states that “Mr. Casini has a foreclosure judgment against his residence and is behind in child support and taxes”. See page 2 of the Court report: [Click here...]
The deal is that Topcat will advance the aforesaid money in exchange for access to fishing and marine resources of Somalia to pay back its’ creditors.
However, the misleading story given to the world media is that the company will assist the TFG to end the piracy. Prior to March 2005 there were no ORGANIZED CRIME OF PIRACY IN SOMALIA. One needs to ask why is there a rise of piracy after Mr. Yusuf was elected as president of TFG? There also questions regarding this upsurge of piracy in Somalia and the way in which the white speedboats used in the piracy were obtained.
This deal is between two insolvent parties: Mr. Peter J. Casini, the manager of the private firm, Topcat and Mr. Hassan Abshir, an appointed Minister of Fishery of a non functioning transitional government.
Both parties will be liable of “misrepresentation ”. Mr. Casini’s company is liable of false statement about the company by not disclosing its 4 previous bankruptcy cases filed in Courts in the state of New Jersey (misrepresentation of facts). While Mr. Abshir is liable to “fraudulent misrepresentation” as he has no authority to sign or enter into a contract with any entities without a legitimate and “unified government”. The TFG of Somalia is split into two groups based in Jowhar and in Mogadiscio. Mr. Abshir is a close relative of the Somali president; Mr. Yusuf based in Jowhar. Mr. Abshir’s shady deal on behalf of the Somali people is a classical case of nepotism, one of the root causes of the Somali conflict.
BACKGROUND OF MR. PETER CASINI
Mr. Peter Casini is born from an Italian- American family and in 1991 he started to build and design boats under the trademark of “Cobra” in Grand Egg Harbor River in NJ.
Mr. Casini has had a long history of insolvency (bankruptcy) and several legal suits against his company were filed in Texas, South Carolina and New Jersey.
According to Court documented, Mr. Peter Casini has filed 4 bankruptcy cases for his “speedboat” companies since 1992, namely:
1. Marine Investors Inc incorporated in NJ in 1995. The company filed bankruptcy in 1999.
2. Cobra Sport Fishing Boats Inc., Egg Harbor, NJ, has filed Chapter 7 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Jersey. The case number is 01-14277- NJ.
3. Cobra World Champion Powerboat Corp. incorporated in NJ in February 2000 along with other 2 of Casini’s companies. The case number is 01-16889-NJ.
4. Tsunami Marine Manufacturing Corporation formed in February 2000 and also filed bankruptcy on July 2001. The bankruptcy case number is 01-16890-NJ.
LEGAL SUITS AGAINST MR. CASINI
1. Graustein vs. Casini’s Marine Investors Inc. The case against Casini’s involved breach of contract, alleged breach of warranty and negligence. On July 200 the Texas State Court awarded Graustein a judgment by default for damages of $175,000 and attorney’s fees of $75,000 for a total of $250,000. Mr. Graustein subsequently filed another complaint in US Bankruptcy Court in NJ and the case was discharged since Casini company went bankruptcy. Ref. [Click here....]
2. Small claims court in Moncks Corner, South Carolina a service contractor named Onyx filed against TOPCAT complaints for nonpayment of services, including providing electricity. Judge David Brown entered a default judgment of $5,960.45 against Top Cat. [Click Here...]
Readers you can ask yourself: why would Messrs. Yusuf and Abshir sign a fraudulent contract on behalf of a whole nation with an insolvent company that has no asset, no permanent address and a long history of bankruptcy? With a small fee any reasonable person can acquire credit report on any legally registered company in the world. It is a pity that Somalia is run by incompetent people. Today’s Sunday Nation wrote doubting article about this company. [Click Here...]
Contract of such a large amount should be awarded through an open and competitive international tender, and not be awarded behind close doors, without any transparency on how and why a certain company is selected.
By Amina Abdi
Govt. of Somalia rolls out its eGovernance program; Sobha Renaissance Information Technology (SRIT) chosen as vendor-partner.
BANGALORE, India – 21 July 2005 - The Somali government’s very first IT and automation programs are taking off to a flying start with the award of e-Governance contracts to Sobha Renaissance Information Technology (SRIT). The signature ceremony, held on July 21, 2005, is graced by visiting Somali dignitaries including the Honorable Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Hasan Ahmed Jama, Special Advisor & Spokesperson to the President of Somalia Mr. Yusuf Mohamed Ismail and the Director-General of the PMO, Mr. Mohamed Ali Nur.
In his statement, the Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Hon. Hasan Ahmed
Jama, says, “The message we wish to convey to the global community is that we
shall not compromise good governance in any form or manner. Topmost on our
agenda is national and international security. Hence, under our e-Governance
program, the very first project rollout would be the ePassport and
eAuthentication systems. Soon after this system gets commissioned, we would get
started with other strategically important national-level automation programs.
We recognize that from a national security standpoint, the strategic mandate is
to automate the entire process of authentication of an individual’s identity and
verify permission. Political and economic unrest around the world is an ongoing
problem. Illegal migration for terrorism, economic benefits and smuggling of
humans or drugs are all converging to create greater pressure on border
crossings. Low cost airfares, demands for faster passenger facilitation and an
expanding European Union further exacerbate these pressures. Travel
documents—passports, visas, national identity cards used for international
travel—are caught in the middle of these opposing forces.”
Most governments are confronted with a rise in
forged or altered identity documents. They face the challenge of issuing highly
secure documents to their citizens. This trend of escalating security risks and
accelerating technology is transforming the marketplace. It places much greater
demands on the enrollment and document issuance processes. It also makes data
collection, adjudication and production processes more complex.
The software part of the turnkey execution would include several core modules including the Tracking module which will ensure a high level of security throughout the personalisation process. This module would track production in its entirety, providing valuable output reports for the Government’s information and analysis. The QC module would ensure outstanding quality control, traceability and management during the complete data manipulation process.
As far as the Somali e-Passports program is concerned, millions of passports are expected to be issued soon after SRIT implements the intelligent ePassport and eAuthentication project.
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Kulaabo bogga www.SomaliTalk.com