Embassy Row: Ambassasdor and vultures

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The ambassador from Argentina sees “vulture” capitalists circling the shaky economy of his South American nation.

Ambassador Jorge Arguello is outraged by New York investors who are demanding that they be paid the full amount on bonds they bought at fire-sale prices in 2001 after the Argentine economy collapsed.

He is complaining about speculators such as billionaire Paul Singer, who has refused to be shortchanged on his claim of $1.6 billion and has persuaded the West African nation of Ghana to seize an Argentine naval training ship as collateral.

In an open letter posted on the Argentine Embassy’s website, Mr. Arguello denounced Mr. Singer for buying Argentine government bonds for pennies on the dollar and now demanding full repayment. He noted that many other creditors settled for a 70 percent loss on their investments in a government bond restructuring about six years ago.

“Today, it is clear to everyone who the vulture funds are, how they operate and what their essence is: speculation,” the ambassador said. “The entire world is watching ever more closely how this confrontation will evolve: a confrontation between a law-abiding country and government that honors their debts and a group of speculators who insist on flapping their wings like vultures.”

The “vultures” landed last week in a New York courtroom, where U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered the government of President Cristina Fernandez to pay $1.3 billion to Mr. Singer and other investors who refused to renegotiate their investments. The case ended up in a U.S. federal court because Argentina agreed to abide by U.S. law when it sold the original bonds in the United States.

The judge also barred Argentina from paying the bondholders who accepted the lower bond payments before settling with Mr. Singer and his fellow plaintiffs.

“After 10 years of litigation, this is a just result,” Judge Griesa said.

Ms. Fernandez, who also has called the speculators “vultures,” has refused to pay the higher prices and is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Before his court victory in New York, Mr. Singer won another legal battle in Ghana, where his lawyers persuaded a judge to impound the three-masted frigate Libertad, with 69 Argentine sailors and 110 students on board.

In 2001, Argentina defaulted on $95 billion in loan payments, setting a world record that still stands.

IRANIAN WINS

Britain’s second-highest court on Tuesday blocked the United States from extraditing a former Iranian ambassador accused of trying to sell U.S. military equipment to Iran.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Nosratollah Tajik, a former ambassador to Jordan, should be freed from a modified house arrest after more than six years of delay in his extradition case.

Lord Justice Alan Moses said the case also threatened Britain’s relations with Iran and endangered British diplomats in Tehran.

Mr. Tajik was arrested in London in 2006 in a sting operation run by U.S. Homeland Security agents posing as arms dealers. The U.S. says Mr. Tajik was trying to buy night-vision goggles for the Iranian military.

The United States or Britain’s Home Office, which approved the extradition, could appeal the ruling to Britain’s Supreme Court.

&bull Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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