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Ghana court upholds seizure of Argentinian ship


The Libertad, an Argentinian frigate with 200 crew on board, docks in Tema, Ghana, after being seized in a debt default dispute. Photograph: David Adadevoh/AFP/Getty ImagesGhana court upholds seizure of Argentinian ship

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Argentina claims sovereign immunity for naval vessel detained under court order in favour of creditors pursuing defaulted debts

Reuters in Accra

A court in Ghana has upheld the decision to detain an Argentinian naval vessel seized under a court order by creditors pursuing the South American country over a 2002 debt default.

Argentina declared a sovereign default a decade ago and now faces a raft of lawsuits in US brought by bondholders seeking to recover the value of defaulted bonds through the freezing of state assets.

The Libertad, a navy frigate with 200 crew, was detained in Ghana's eastern port of Tema on 2 October under a court order sought by NML Capital, an affiliate of the investment firm Elliott Management.

Argentina's defence ministry filed a motion contesting the move, claiming sovereign immunity. The ministry said the vessel could not be targeted by creditors owing to its military nature.

In its ruling on Thursday, the commercial court in Ghana's capital, Accra, said Argentina had forfeited such immunities when it issued the bonds.

"The defence applicant had made it so clear in the transaction agreement that it was waving such immunity and it is my view that the action being sought by the plaintiff is binding in accordance with the laws," it said.

Ace Ankomah, a lawyer for NML Capital, told Reuters his clients were seeking a bond deposit worth at least $20m (£12.5m) before releasing the vessel, adding that Argentina owed his clients more than $300m.

"We are not insisting on cash payment, neither are we asking for the full amount. Our position is that we'd release the vessel if they are able to get a bank to issue the bond to us," Ankomah said.

Bondholders such as NML Capital, which the Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, calls vulture funds, normally target foreign bank accounts held by state-run firms or government agencies.

Defence lawyers said the ship, which is used as a training vessel, was running low on fuel and appealed to the court to allow refuelling. All of the crew remain on board.

The Libertad was visiting Ghana as part of a west African tour. It is due to sail to Angola next.

Source: The Guardian UK



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