Japanese Investor Given 24 Hours To Pay Custodial Fees For CNMI Cargo Vessel

Court likely to release 'arrested' vessel M/V Luta

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 22, 2017) – The clock is ticking for Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto, who has been given 24 hours to settle his share of $130,406 in custodial fees for cargo vessel M/V Luta.

In a hearing yesterday, the federal court directed Yamamoto to settle his outstanding balance of $130,406 with the National Maritime Services Inc. If no settlement is reached, the court will proceed with the order to show-cause hearing today, Wednesday, at 8am.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge David O. Carter arrived at the decision after discussions with Yamamoto’s counsel, George Lloyd Hasselback, NMS counsel Sean Frink, and counsels for the intervenors in Yamamoto’s lawsuit.

Yamamoto himself did not personally appear as ordered.

Frink told the court that Yamamoto did not pay but he and Hasselback said that negotiations are taking place over a possible settlement.

Carter said a 24-hour settlement discussion is reasonable. If it fails, a show-cause hearing will be held today, during which Yamamoto was ordered to personally appear.

The hearing will not go through, however, if the court is presented with an executed written agreement settling all of NMS’ claims against Yamamoto for custodial fees.

Failing that and failing to appear at the hearing could result in Yamamoto being arrested. The court may also impose other sanctions.

“If [a] settlement is reached, Yamamoto does not need to come to the court,” the judge said.

In an interview after the hearing, Hasselback said they’re working on settling the remaining claims between Yamamoto and NMS.

“And I think we will be able to get everything worked out by tomorrow morning,” Hasselback said.

Hasselback said that what has been requested by the creditors/intervenors is that the vessel be released.

Hasselback pointed out that Yamamoto’s arrest warrant for the vessel was recently vacated by the court.

“I anticipate that the next step will be probably the release of the vessel,” the lawyer said.

Hasselback declined to comment about Yamamoto’s ongoing case against Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog and Luta Mermaid LLC and its owners.

“You could check the record out. Mr. Yamamoto does have several claims pending. That will continue in the normal course of business,” he said.

William Fitzgerald, the lawyer for Luta Mermaid and its members, said he has no comment until today, Wednesday.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Tydingco-Gatewood recently ordered the vessel to be released, but made the order contingent on the parties paying NMS’ custodial fees in full.

Tydingco-Gatewood also issued an order to show cause two weeks ago against Yamamoto for failing to pay his outstanding balance of $130,406 in custodial fees no later than Feb. 14, 2017. Yamamoto had already initially paid $30,000 in custodial fees.

Tydingco-Gatewood ordered Yamamoto to appear in court yesterday, Tuesday, and explain why he should not be held in contempt for resisting the court’s order for him to pay his share of custodial fees.

The vessel’s crew, Long Consulting, and Norton Lilly have complied with the court’s order by paying for custodial fees in the total amount of $28,916.

Tydingco-Gatewood determined that Yamamoto’s relationship with Abelina T. Mendiola and her family demonstrates he was a joint venturer with them in M/V Luta.

Abelina T. Mendiola is president of Luta Mermaid, and Luta Mermaid’s members are Deron T. Mendiola, and Fidel S. Mendiola III.

Yamamoto is suing Hocog and the owner/operators of M/V Luta for allegedly refusing to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for the vessel. After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized the ship. NMS was then appointed as custodian of the vessel.

Saipan Tribune
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