Lender says there were other ways to pay back Justice’s helicopter loan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s no good reason a company owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family couldn’t make good on the $4 million still remaining on a helicopter loan, a lender claims in a new federal lawsuit filing.

James C. Companies, Justice Aviation — and the governor personally — were sued in the Southern District of New York in September over default on a loan for the companies’ private helicopter.

Lawyers for the governor’s companies responded last month that Justice Aviation was trying to resolve the matter by selling a helicopter — but that offers kept fizzling before lender Citizens Asset Finance would give its approval.

“Nothing prevents the defendants from liquidating other assets,” lawyers for Citizens Asset Finance wrote in a reply filed Dec. 22. “Indeed, one of the defendants is a billionaire.”

MORE: Read the reply in support of dismissing Justice Aviation counterclaim.

Citizens Asset Finance is asking for a judge in the the Southern District of New York to dismiss a counterclaim filed by Justice’s companies.

Governor Justice is named in the lawsuit as an individual because he signed a personal guarantee on the loan.

“Wherefore, Plaintiff Citizens Asset Finance Inc. prays for judgment in its favor and against defendant James C. Justice II in the amount of not less than $4,290,297.33, in addition to all costs, charges, and expenses, including attorneys’ fees accrued (and accruing) through and after the dates set forth above, all other amounts due under the loan documents and such other and further relief as this court shall deem just and appropriate,” according to the original lawsuit.

Justice Aviation took out a loan on Dec. 30, 2009, for an AgustaWestland S.p.A. model A109S helicopter and two Pratt and Whitney Canada model PW207C helicopter engines.

Before the loan matured, Justice aviation and Jim Justice, as the guarantor, defaulted, the lender claims.

Citizens Asset Finance wants to foreclose against Justice and his companies and take back possession of the aircraft.

Lawyers for Justice’s companies, in a motion filed in November, said Justice Aviation had been trying to resolve the matter by selling the helicopter.

The company wrote that it had an offer for $2.2 million in July, but by the time approval was granted by Citizens Asset Finance the interested buyer had moved on.

Citizens Asset Finance, last week, called the Justice counterclaim “threadbare.”

The company says it had no duty to immediately respond to a purchase offer on the helicopter.

“While the Borrower would inevitably need the Lender’s approval to release its lien on the collateral in order to effectuate a sale, seeking the Lender’s consent was the Borrower’s choice,” wrote the lawyers for Citizens Asset Finance.

The lawyers for Justice Aviation contended that this past July 6, Justice Aviation received a written, signed offer to purchase the aircraft for $2.2 million but still needed Citizens Asset to agree.

The lawyers for Justice wrote that the deal was communicated to Citizens Asset that day and then again on July 11. By July 12, Citizens Asset communicated its assent.

“Unfortunately, by July 12, the offeror had decided to pursue another aircraft and had rescinded the offer,” wrote the lawyers for Justice.

Citizens Asset says there’s more to that story.

“Moreover, despite the Borrower’s shrewd decision not to attach the e-mails that purportedly support its counterclaim, the allegations themselves are internally inconsistent. The lender did not fail to respond ‘within 6 days.’

Citizens Asset Finance says it provided an initial response via email the day after it was notified of the potential sale.

“Instead of immediately following up with the lender to push for a response to the sale offer, the Borrower waited another four days before replying, and yet another day before first advising the Lender of any urgency to the request — which flatly belies the Counterclaim.”




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