LAWYERS acting for ManSat boss Chris Stott and island-based space exploration company Excalibur Almaz say they will be mounting a ‘rigorous’ defence against ‘completely unfounded’ claims made against them in a US civil court..
In a civil suit filed in Harris County Court, Houston, Texas, Donna Beck is suing Houston patent attorney Art Dula, his companies Excalibur Exploration Limited, Excalibur Limited, Excalibur Almaz Limited and Excalibur Almaz USA Inc, and Excalibur directors J. Buckner Hightower and Christopher Stott.
She alleges Mr Dula defrauded her and her late husband out of $300,000 by claiming his company had a ‘special rocket engine’ to ‘travel in space to a distant asteroid and mine precious metals’. In her claim, she alleges she and her husband were induced to advance $300,000, and later purchase an investment in Excalibur Exploration Limited, with the ‘fundamental false representation’ that the company had the technical expertise and associations to develop a business to fly the first commercial prospecting space flight to an asteroid.
‘In fact, the entire operation was a sham and never accomplished anything of substance,’ she alleges.
Mrs Beck seeks damages for negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, Texas Securities Act violations and breach of contract.
The claimant claims that she and her husband met Mr Dula, Mr Hightower and Mr Stott in May 2006 during a commercial space flight convention on a cruise ship. She alleges the three men won the couple over by hosting them at a dinner honouring science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, which many former NASA astronauts and officials attended.
She said she and her husband had been hooked by Mr Dula’s charm and the plan presented by all the defendants to mine asteroids for precious metals and the profits it would bring.
They were promised that with their $300,000 investment they would become founders of the enterprise and they were told that $50 million had already been raised for the Excalibur Almaz Limited operations, which included ‘Almaz spacecraft that would be used to test the operation of a special rocket engine needed to travel to asteroids,’ her complaint states.
But Matthew Kennedy, of Dallas-based law firm Kennedy Legal Firm PLLC, which is representing Mr Stott, told the Manx Independent: ‘At this time, the little we know about Mrs. Beck’s claims and the facts surrounding them is that they are no better than completely unfounded.
‘Unfortunately in Texas, it is not uncommon for non-meritorious claims to be filed and innocent parties to have to defend themselves. We will be mounting a rigorous defence.
‘I’ve advised my client to make no other comments regarding Mrs Beck’s claims until we know more about her allegations and how they relate to him specifically.’
A statement from Excalibur Exploration Limited said: ‘Excalibur Exploration cannot discuss details of on-going litigation, nor can we prevent a lawsuit from being filed. However, we consider this claim entirely without merit and we will vigorously defend it.
‘Excalibur Exploration is an on-going company engaged in the study of asteroids with the long term goal of mining them for scarce resources such as nickel, ferrous minerals for production of steel and precious metals in short supply on Earth.
We are not deterred from our course by those who no longer wish to be part of this important work.’
Tim Craine, director of space commerce, said as this was a matter before the courts, he didn’t believe it would be appropriate to comment further.
Space industry experts believe the Isle of Man is the fourth most likely nation to get a man on the Moon.
Excalibur Almaz’s founder and chief executive Mr Dula told a space tourism conference in London in June that his company sell lunar flights tickets to the Moon for the price of £100 million, insisting: ‘This is scientific fact, not fiction.’
They plan to use a re-fitted former Soviet space station and re-entry capsule, currently in store in a hangar at Jurby, for the six-month expedition.
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