Court Rules Elliott Can Keep Argentine Ship In Ghana

Oct 12 2012 | 12:49pm ET

Elliott Associates may have found its trump card in its long-running fight with Argentina.

A judge in Ghana yesterday refused to lift a court order detaining the Argentine navy's flagship in the country—a court order obtained by an affiliate of Elliott, which has been battling with Argentina over that country's debt default more than a decade ago. The two sides have traded courtroom victories and defeats in the U.S., but it's been one-sided in Ghana, where Commercial Court Judge Richard Adjei-Frimpong ordered the ARA Libertad held until Argentina pays about $1.6 billion ordered by U.S. courts.

The judge rejected Argentina's argument that the Libertad, which was on a goodwill tour to West Africa, was performing a military function and therefore was protected by United Nations conventions from seizure. Adjei-Frimpong ruled that Ghanian law does not protect military assets.

Ace Ankomah, a lawyer for NML Capital, the Elliott affiliate, said that Argentina doesn't have to pay the full $1.6 billion to free the ship—just a $20 million deposit with the court. Argentina, which has reacted furiously to the seizure, said it would meet with "the highest authorities of Ghana's government" in another bid to get the ship out of Tema.

The Libertad has been stuck there for 10 days. There are 320 people on board, including Chileans and Uruguayans. They are free to leave the ship and are being properly cared for, Argentina said.

"Argentina will exhaust all legal appeals in Ghana and at international tribunals in defense of its sovereignty against the vulture funds and those that want to impose a global order where people live subject to speculative capital," the country's foreign ministry said.

Argentina has said it will not settle with the roughly 7% of bondholders from the 2001 default who have refused its restructuring, which required a two-thirds haircut.

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