By Laura Fasano, published in fic.com on 27 August
According to the author, still back in 1982 the Lithuanian state fishing enterprise Jura, under the Ministry of Agriculture, formed the company Flota Estatal Lituania Jura SRL in Argentina — as a branch with legal status based in its headquarters in Lithuania — which finally broke on 25 August, 1997. This company, in turn, worked in a JV with the Argentinean firm Pescar SA, which also broke on 6 March, 1997. The Lithuanians escaped with their ships and goods on board, leaving their debts in Argentina. Subsequently, they withdrew all their staff from this country, trying to “cut” their business operations and turning away from the debt that had been generated.
This situation led to a trial within Lithuania that imposed severe punishments to some directors, with prison sentences. In addition, various other creditors sued them in Argentina. This trial was completed and currently there is a judgment for over USD 20 million, which will not prescribe despite the time lapse, FIC.COM reported.
The Lithuanian government restructured its entire fishing field and dissolved the firm Jura in 2000, proceeding to the privatization of its assets, among which were fishing vessels, repairing ships, floating docks, processing plants and cold stores. We must also remember that in the former Soviet Union this fishery-processor complex was operating under the name of Litrybprom.
Many of these assets were transferred to UAB Baltlanta group, which currently operates vessels in North Africa (mainly in Mauritania and Senegal). The group has its operations centre in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and is now the company that owns the largest fleet in the Baltic States.
Lithuania became a member of the European Union on 1 May, 2004, one year after the Lithuanian approved the adhesion referendum. Argentinean creditors understood then that as there was a final decision by the Argentinean court, they were in a position to begin the process of collecting the money owed and enforcement of the judgment, delayed repeatedly for different political or commercial reasons.
At present, international lawyers who specialize in maritime and fishery law took the decision to investigate the records of the vessels and their engine serial number, hull and other characteristics, to assess whether they can be seized as part of the debt originated at the time by the company Jura. This is so because if a ship changes ownership, name, flag or registration, the debt on it continues.
There are already many precedents, which contribute to the optimism of the Argentinean party that the aims will be achieved, FIS.COM concluded.