US firm in $28-M helicopter deal with Philippines sues partners
Joseph Lariosa (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2015 - 1:00am

CHICAGO – A dealer of helicopters based in Olivehurst, California, which snared a $28-million (P1.27-billion)contract with the Philippine Air Force (PAF), has 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 US District Court of the Eastern District of California, Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. (RASI) asked the court to compel Patrick Soars and Peter Wieland, both Australian citizens, and 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,” and for restitution, attorneys’ fees and costs of suit.

Robert Rice, president and chief executive officer 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 P1,264,977,615.52 ($28,574,149.89 at current $1-P44.27 exchange rate), his partners sent false statements regarding RASI, such as the claim that RASI was not the true owner of the helicopters and had no rights to sell the helicopters owned by WAG.

“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 US and German governments and EagleCopters Ltd.,” the lawsuit alleged. EagleCopters Ltd. is a partner of RASI.

Because of this, Rice said, the delay of payment caused him losses amounting to $3,371,231.10, with regard to the fluctuation of US dollar and Philippine peso exchange rates, and he was penalized by the Philippine government in the amount of $2,786,328.60 “for late performance” on the delivery of the helicopters.

RASI also blamed Vietnamese Thach Hoang Nguyen as among the defendants who demanded from it to “pay them a portion of the profits from the sale of helicopters.” Nguyen was not named in the complaint.

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.”

Subject to approval

According to the civil complaint filed by RASI’s lawyer Matthew Weber, it was in 2009 when Rice expressed interest to buy 21 military-grade helicopters from Germany “subject to the approval of the US State Department,” Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

Rice said since he lacked the expertise in dealing with the US government to obtain approvals, he turned to Nguyen – who presented himself as a lawyer and an employee of the US State Department – for assistance.

He said Nguyen was introduced to him by a “mutual contact, and assisted Rice in previous deals with the Philippine government prior to the purchase of the subject helicopters in Germany.”

Rice had partnered with Wieland, who “experienced financial hardship and went into receivership in 2013,” which forced him to do the transactions for the purchasing of helicopters from the German government alone.

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.

AUSTRALIAN NATIVE LANDSCAPES BOTH WIELAND AND SOARS DIRECTORATE OF DEFENSE TRADE CONTROLS DISTRICT COURT OF THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA HELICOPTERS LTD NGUYEN RASI RICE STATE DEPARTMENT
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