Billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer has taken a very novel approach toward settling a very large debt he is owed.
Singer has decided to call in a $1.6 billion marker he claims is owed to him by the South American country of Argentina.
The country reportedly offered to settle the debt at 30 cents on the dollar. Singer, of course, scoffed at the offer and promptly refused. Instead, the business-savvy Singer decided to snag a page from the Somali pirates' playbook.
Three weeks ago the historic Argentinean Navy frigate, AMA Libertad, sailed into a harbor and docked in the small African nation of Ghana. Little did the government of Argentina know Singer's company, NML Capital, convinced a local Ghanaian court to seize the vessel on behalf of the company.
And so, the vessel was commandeered with all hands and prevented from leaving the site where it was moored. Of course this development did not go over well at all with the Argentinean government and it immediately petitioned Ghanaian officials, demanding the return of its prized vessel. Singer refused to return the ship unless Argentina posted a $20 million bond.
Argentina said that it was not posting a single dime and accused Singer and his company of being a "vulture fund" involved in international extortion.
This is yet another installment in the 10-year standoff between Singer and the cash-strapped South American nation.
When the two aren't hurling insults at each other and Singer isn't plotting to seize the country's ships, they spend time opposite one another in various courts with Singer attempting to get the nation to pay its debt in full, while Argentina tries to offer pennies on the dollar to settle it. Singer has reportedly even enlisted the aid of the UN in an effort to compel the country to pay up.
According to estimates, the Libertad is only worth a paltry 1 percent of the total amount owed. However, it is obviously a matter of principle with Singer. Perhaps the hedge fund mogul was attempting to embarrass the country into coughing up the cash by taking away one of its historic treasures. If this was the case, unfortunately, this plan also has failed miserably.
"Take the frigate," was reportedly the response from Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, “As long as I’m president, you can take our frigate, but nobody is going to take the liberty, the sovereignty and dignity of this nation,” said Fernandez in a speech last week. Fernandez ordered the 325 sailors aboard to abandon ship and return home on Oct. 22.
The men were flown home via a chartered French commercial airline. Presumably because the Argentinean government feared that sending any of their own planes to pick up the stranded sailors would result in another embarrassing seizure.
Disappointingly for Singer and company, this is only a small victory. So far, every attempt to get the country to pay has failed. Singer even attempted to seize the country’s presidential jet while it was in the US for maintenance.
It appears that there will be no resolution to come anytime soon between the two adversaries.