Argentina is refusing to pay the 20 million dollars in ransom that New York hedge fund dealer Paul Singer is demanding in exchange for releasing the country’s Naval training vessel currently retained in the port of Tempa, Ghana, West Africa, reports the New York Post.
At a court hearing today in Ghana on Tuesday, where Singer’s lawyers are holding the ARA Libertad hostage, a lawyer for Argentina argued that Singer had no right to detain the ship because it’s a military vessel and immune from seizure.
Lawyer Larry Otoo called the seizure — a move by Singer to force Argentina to repay a 1.6 billion debt he says he’s owed — an embarrassment to Ghana and demanded the ship’s immediate return. Argentina labels Elliot Management as a “vulture fund”.
The court is expected to rule Thursday on whether to release the ship.
Singer head of hedge fund giant Elliot Management, is seeking to recoup some of the 600 million dollars in bonds he purchased as Argentina was headed for default in 2001/02.
Elliot bought the bonds at steep discounts, paying as little as 15 cents on the dollar in some cases, but has since won judgments of as much as 1.6 billion. Elliot’s NML Capital unit is pursuing Argentina’s assets all over the world in an effort to collect on its debt.
Ace Ankomah, a lawyer for NML, argued before the Ghana court that Argentina explicitly waived immunity when it issued the bonds and said NML might not be able to recover its debt if the vessel is permitted to leave Ghana.
Last week, NML convinced a court in Ghana to detain the ship as it docked at the port of Tema in Ghana’s capital of Accra. A judge in Ghana ordered the seizure of the ship as part of a 280 million dollars judgment NML was awarded in 2006 in Manhattan federal court.
According to the New York Post, NML has told Argentina it would accept 20 million dollars in exchange for the ship, according to a person close to the negotiations. However ARA Libertad, is estimated to be worth 10 million dollars.
ARA Libertad as a Navy training vessel is on a world tour with 160 cadets on their officers’ promotion trip and also includes members from other South American and African navies, specially invited.