Four executives of Swift Air LLC, the supposed partner of Saipan Air Inc., filed on Friday a motion to dismiss Saipan Air's $50-million racketeering lawsuit against them.
Defendants Donald A. Stukes, Jeffrey Conry, Hank Tobert, and Boris Van Lier, through counsel Michael A. White, asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
White asserted that defendants lack sufficient minimum contacts with the CNMI to allow the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over them.
“Alternatively, even if defendants' contacts with the CNMI are determined to be sufficient to allow for personal jurisdiction, jurisdiction in this case is unreasonable,” White said.
The defendants, however, admitted in their motion that they received from Saipan Air $1,276,000 in write transfers “in order to ensure Saipan Air's operational timeline.”
Saipan Tribune saw only the declarations of Stukes, Van Lier, and Conry that were filed in support of the motion to dismiss.
According to the declarations, Stukes is a resident of the State of New York; Van Lier is a citizen of the Netherlands and currently residing in the State of North Carolina; while Conry is a resident of the State of North Carolina.
Stukes said he is not an owner or employee of Swift Air LLC, while Van Lier and Conry admitted they are employees of Swift Air.
Stukes, Van Lier, and Conry stated that at no times did they misappropriate funds from Saipan Air for their personal benefit.
The three also stated that prior to Swift Air LLC's bankruptcy filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona, they did not receive bonus payment from Swift Air.
They said this can be confirmed by audits of Swift Air performed in connection with the bankruptcy proceeding.
The defendants said because they live in the U.S. mainland and have no ties to the CNMI, it would be an extreme burden on them personally, professionally, and financially to be defendants in this litigation in a forum more than 7,000 miles away from where they live.
White said the $1.3 million that the defendants received from Saipan Air were used to purchase materials, training, and services necessary for Swift Air to perform under their agreement with Saipan Air.
White said at no times were these funds misappropriated for defendants' personal benefit.
White said as a result of Swift Air's changed financial position and its inability to secure bridge loan funding from Saipan Air, Swift could not perform under the agreement and terminated the agreement.
Saipan Air was compelled to cease all of its business operations on June 29, 2012.
In its amended complaint, Saipan Air is suing the defendants for allegedly conspiring to obtain money and other property from the plaintiff.
Saipan Air, through counsel Steven Pixley, asked the federal court to hold the defendants liable to pay the company $50 million in punitive damages, plus unspecified amounts in restitution, special damages, attorney's fees, and court costs.
Pixley said as a result of the defendants' unjust enrichment, Saipan Air has been damaged in an amount in excess of $1.26 million.
Pixley disclosed that, on July 11, 2012, Swift Air filed a statement of financial affairs in the bankruptcy proceeding stating that Van Lier received payments in the amount of $800,000 from Swift Air between March 30, 2012 and June 26, 2012.
Swift Air filed for bankruptcy petition on June 27, 2012.