The Federal Supreme Court reversed lower court’s decision on the civil case between Orchid Business Group Plc. (OBG) and Yonas Kassahun.
The Supreme Court, on August 6 announced a final verdict in favor of OBG, which was sued by the individual for 42 million birr about two years ago.
In June 2014, the Federal High Court had ordered OBG to pay 42 million birr to Yonas, who claimed that the company owed him the sum for a ceremony organized for the South Sudanese Independence Day in July 2011.
The lower court had stated that the company sent a letter signed by Engida Workneh, Deputy General Manager of Orchid, to Yonas promising to pay 42 million birr for expenses incurred to organize the celebration of South Sudan Independence Day in Juba. Soldan International General Trading LLC, a Dubai-registered company affiliated with OBG delivered the document to Yonas.
The lower court had accepted the letter as proof to declare a final decision, even though the defendant argued that the deputy manager did not have the authority to make that promise under the company’s bylaws. The company also claimed that OBG and Yonas did not have any business relations and that the letter was illegal.
The judge from the Federal High Court rejected Orchid’s argument after receiving forensic evidence showing that the signature belongs to the deputy general manger and that the stamp on the agreement was OBG’s. The court ordered the defendant to pay 42 million birr to the plaintiff along with a nine percent interest.
Within a month of the lower court’s decision, the company filed an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court to reverse the verdict.
For nearly a year, the case was at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Criminal Bench of the Federal First Instance Court of Arada District sentenced Yonas to two years in prison and a 5,000 birr fine for hacking into a third party’s email account.
Akiko Seyoum, General Manager and major shareholder of OBG, had filed a criminal case of the cyber attack. The case also stated as evidence for the appeal case, while Yonas presented video and photo evidence to the Supreme Court proceedings.
The Supreme Court stated that the letter signed by Engida would not be used as evidence. It added that the company is not responsible for the actions of another independent company – in this case, Soldan International. Further, the court determined that Orchid’s bylaws clearly stated that the Deputy General Manager did not have the authority to sign the letter.
In its decision, the Supreme Court stated that Yonas did not submit convincing evidence that he and the Dubai-based company had a profit-sharing or sub-contracting agreement for the event.
In documents he filed to the lower and supreme courts, Yonas claimed that he spent EUR 1.7 million in equipment purchases from three German companies for the Independence Day celebration organized by Soldan.
The Supreme Court’s decision states that despite forensic evidence surrounding the letter, it could not have been given to the individual without a formal deal to supply goods and equipment.