The millionaire, the row and the private jet company for celebrities...
A good old fashioned dogfight is brewing in the skies above London’s junior stockmarket.
The legal battle between Gama Aviation - an AIM-listed private jet supplier to celebs, such as Lewis Hamilton before he ditched the mode of transport - and one of its customers, millionaire Andre Serruys, centres on allegations of false invoicing, dodgy deals for private jet parts and a failure to maintain Serruys’ plane, a Challenger 601 private jet.
Bits of this yarn, together with a previous legal dispute between Gama and its old chief executive Dustin Dryden, have already been written up by some of my old chums in the mainstream press.
Last year, for example, Oliver Shah at the Sunday Times wrote up the story of Gama’s dispute with Dryden. And earlier this month the Mail on Sunday wrote about the battle with Serruys.
Both were good stories on their own. However they get even better when you put them together.
One of the core allegations in the Serruys / Gama dispute is that the company, then being piloted by Dryden, improperly charged Serruys half a million quid through issuing negligent, incompetent or unlawful invoices.
As you would expect, this is all being met by firm denials by both Gama and Dryden in their respective defences to the claim. Quite right, too.
These denials, though, do lead us to how similar - if unconnected - allegations were dealt with in the previous dispute, the one between Gama and Dryden. This claim and counterclaim was all about the terms of Dryden’s earn out when he sold his company to Gama, who owed who what when the relationship fell apart.
The case settled two days into the trial, but not before Dryden had been cross-examined, about guess what? Yup, false invoices.
One particularly well targeted bit of questioning by Gama’s lawyer was on how an invoice, originally made out for $76,000, had been replaced for one made out for the ever so slightly larger sum of $213,000.
Was the larger an invoice a “false invoice” Dryden was asked by Gama’s lawyer.
No, merely a “different” one, was his initial response.
But it’s made out on the same day, for the same matter and as a direct replacement of the smaller invoice. “Do you agree that the second invoice is an inflated invoice,” Gama’s lawyer pressed.
“Yes,” was Dryden’s answer on the record. “It looks like an inflated invoice.”
Or a false invoice, the lawyer followed up with.
“Yes,” Dryden responded. “I agree with you.”
Any readers concerned at this point about how Dryden negotiated this turbulence need be concerned no more. He’s nothing if not an experienced pilot. Shortly after this exchange all the parties involved in the matter executed an emergency landing and settled the matter out of court.
A spokesperson for Gama Aviation said: "Gama Aviation’s ongoing court proceedings are in the public domain and fully disclosed to our shareholders. At this time we have no further comment to make as the litigation process on these matters continues.”
A spokesperson for Aviaa, a company set up by Mr Dryden, declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Mr Serruys declined to comment...