Dentons is suing the Republic of Guinea and its Ministry of Mines and Geology for $10.2m over alleged unpaid legal fees, as well as costs that the country has ‘repeatedly acknowledged they owe’ the firm. US firm Williams & Connolly is representing Dentons in the dispute.
Filed in the District Court of Columbia last Friday (1 August), the dispute arose after the West African country contracted with Dentons for the development of a £20bn large-scale mining and infrastructure project in Simandou, located in south eastern Guinea.
Dentons claims to have ‘rendered valuable professional services’ and further asserts that it performed at standard hourly rates, as agreed by the parties, and recruited a team of specialist subcontractors to provide multidisciplinary strategy and advice required due to the project’s ‘complexity, size and economic value’.
The work was led by Washington DC-based partner Jonathan Cahn who directed a team of Dentons lawyers specialised in mining, infrastructure and project finance.
The firm said the lawyers involved dedicated more than 10,000 hours to working with the Government, its ministers and representatives, including more than 7,500 hours spent in the United State, and ‘produced scores of reports, presentations, memoranda, drafts, negotiator notes and other deliverables including briefings to the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Finance, the inter-ministerial working group convened by the Ministry of Mines, and a working group designated by the President of Guinea, which provided real value’.
In August 2013, Cahn travelled with a Dentons team to the Guinean capital Conakry for a meeting where the country’s minister for mining Lamine Fofana said the Government had taken the decision to pay the firm in full.
At the meeting the then minster for finance Kerfalla Yasane admitted that the government had not budgeted for the owed amounts and, to address this failure, he proposed that the World Bank review the invoices and make payment to Dentons in accordance with funding made available to the government for this purpose by the bank.
While the defendants on 1 April 2013 made a partial payment of £2m to Dentons, pursuant to an order made by President Alpha Condé, Dentons claims that neither the World Bank nor any other third party has paid any of the firm’s invoices on behalf of Guinea.