CHICAGO (JGL) – A dealer of parts and helicopter based in Olivehurst, California, whose partners helped snare a P1,264,977,615.52 ($28,574,149.89 at current $1-P44.27 exchange rate) helicopter contract with the Philippine Air Force (PAF), had filed a civil suit against its partners for intentional interference with contract, interference with prospective economic advantage and defamation.
In a civil suit filed before the United States District Court of the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. (RASI) asked the court to compel Patrick Soars and Peter Wieland, both Australian citizens, Wieland Aviation Group (WAG) and Australian Native Landscapes (ANL) PTY. Ltd., both Australian companies, to award RASI compensatory and punitive damages “to punish and deter (them) from engaging in the conduct,” restitution, attorneys fees and costs of suit.
Robert Rice, president and CEO of RASI, alleged in his 10-page lawsuit that after he sealed the contract to deliver 21 helicopters to the PAF at a cost of P1,2 billion, his partners “sent false statements regarding RASI, including RASI was not the true owner of the helicopters and had no rights to sell the helicopters and WAG owned the helicopters.
“Both Wieland and Soars, on behalf of both WAG and ANL, sent letters containing these false statements on multiple occasions, to not only the Philippine government but also to the U.S. and German governments and EagleCopters Ltd .” RASI’s partner, the lawsuit alleges.
RASI also blamed a Vietnamese man Thach Hoang Nguyen as among those defendants, who demanded from it, to “pay them a portion of the profits from sale of helicopters to the Philippine government.” Nguyen was not named in the complaint.
Nguyen is now facing sentencing of a maximum of 20-year imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, full restitution, forfeiture of assets, special assessment and supervised release for Count 1 wire fraud when he “knowingly devised a scheme to defraud and obtain money or property by false or fraudulent pretenses by means of wire communication in the interstate commerce” in a related case pending in the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria.
Aside from wire fraud, Nguyen also pleaded guilty to Count 2 Prohibited Brokering when he “attempted exportation of defense articles from the US to Vietnam, did knowingly and willfully engage and attempt to engage in the business of brokering activities in return for a fee, commission and other consideration, without first obtaining a license or written approval from the US Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls in viol of Title 22, USC, Sec. 2778.”
SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
According to the civil complaint filed by RASI’s lawyer Matthew J. Weber of Stockton, California, it was in 2009 when Rice expressed interest to buy 21 military-grade helicopters from Germany “subject to the approval of the U.S. State Department,” Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).
Rice said since he lacked the expertise in dealing with the U.S. State Department to obtain approvals, he turned to Thach Nguyen for assistance, who claimed to be a lawyer at the U.S. State Department. He said Nguyen was introduced to him through a “mutual contact, and assisted Rice in previous deal with the Philippine government prior to the purchase of the subject helicopters in Germany.”
Nguyen represented to Rice that he was a lawyer and was an employee of the U.S. State Department and could assist Rice in obtaining approvals from the U.S. government and could assist Rice successfully in bidding on a contract for the sale of the German helicopters to the Philippines.
Rice partnered with Wieland, who “experienced financial hardship and went into receivership in 2013,” forcing Rice to do it alone when he purchased the helicopters from the German government.
Rice and Nguyen traveled to Germany to formalize the agreement and managed to transport the helicopters from Germany to the US to be refurbished for sale to the Philippines.
Rice also later partnered with EagleCopters.
Nguyen went to the Philippines to represent RASI in “bidding on contracts but did not receive the contract.”
In 2013, Rice received a call from a representative familiar with the tender for the helicopters for the PAF. The representative, who was not identified, became Rice’s representative and asked Nguyen to come to the Philippines.
Upon Nguyen’s arrival in the Philippines, Rice learned that Nguyen was not qualified to represent Rice in the purchase and sale of the helicopters and was not an agent of the U.S. State Department nor a lawyer, and that “majority of the approvals obtained by Nguyen were illegitimate.”
On December 2013, Rice entered into a contract with the Philippine government for the sale of 21 helicopters for P1,264,977,615.52.
In March 2014, when a letter of credit was opened, the exchange rate of P45.35 to $1.00 pegged the P1,264,977,615.52 to $27,893.662.97.
Prior to Rice entry with Philippine contract, defendants and Nguyen have demanded from Rice to pay them a portion of the profits from sale of helicopters to Philippine government.
Rice rejected their demands “because they were not partners for Rice’s purchase and sale of helicopters and funded none of the costs associated with the sale and purchase of helicopters.”
When defendants “sent false statements regarding Rice, including Rice was not the true owner of the helicopters and had no rights to sell the helicopters and WAG owned the helicopters. Both Wieland and Soars, on behalf of both WAG and ANL, sent letters containing these false statements on multiple occasions, to not only the Philippine government but also the U.S. and German governments, as well as EagleCopter,” the delay of payment caused him losses amounting to $3,371,231.10 in the difference due to fluctuation of the US dollar-Philippine peso exchange rate and he was penalized by the Philippine government for an additional $2,786.328.60 “for late performance” of the delivery of the helicopters based on the Philippine contract.
Rice said in January 2013, the U.S.-Philippine exchange rate peaked at 40.46 Philippine pesos to a U.S. dollar, which pegged the P1,264,977,615.52 to $31,264,894.10.
Rice had demanded a jury trial.