Legal Action Taken Against the Caribbean Petroleum Company

A joint lawsuit including about 1,000 defendants seeking $500 million in damages has been filed against the Caribbean Petroleum Company, the tanker Cape Bruny, and 23 other defendants linked to the October 23 explosion at CAPECO’s storage facility in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. This federal suit is the third such legal action to be taken against CAPECO. The latest lawsuit expands the list of defendants, which now include all holding companies associated with CAPECO and Cape Bruny, businesses that stored oil at the facility, and CAPECO President Gad Zeevi and his son Ram, managing director. The suit seeks damages for people and businesses that live or operate near the company’s storage facility, which was the site of a 60-hour blaze that forced more than 500 families to evacuate their homes and threatened 30,000 residents with a toxic plume of smoke from the burning of 2 million barrels of fuel. Thirty acres of neighboring wetlands were also extensively damaged by the fire.

After a thorough investigation, the FBI said gas fumes were to blame for the explosion and fire that burned 21 of 40 tanks at the CAPECO oil facility. FBI Special Agent Luis Fraticelli said a cloud of gasoline vapors covered a large part of the site and that “an electrical source at the site sparked the first fire that then touched off the massive explosion.” Attorney Eric Quetglas said that “people [or businesses] that used CAPECO’s storage facilities were also liable because they had the responsibility of checking whether the facilities were in good shape, and they were not.”

Among the new defendants in the suit is a web of companies that Gad Zeevi owns. These include: Caribbean Petroleum Refining LP, a Limited Partnership organized under the laws of Delaware, which is listed as an owner and/or operator of the Gulf Oil Facility; Caribbean Petroleum LP, which owned some of the fuel and ultra hazardous, explosive products that were stored, or that were in the process of being stored at the Gulf Oil Facility; Caribbean Oil LP, a retail seller of fuels through various service stations in Puerto Rico; and Gulf Petroleum Corporation, an owner and/or operator of the Gulf Oil Facility. First Oil International, based in the British Virgin Islands, owns all these companies.

The suit states that “First Oil International’s only reported address is c/o Services Resources (UK) Ltd., which is located in a four-apartment London, England, townhouse owned by Ram Zeevi. FOI is used by Gad Zeevi to exercise control over and to use CPC, CPR, CPLP, COLP and GPC for his own benefit and for the benefit of other entities he controls, without adherence to normal corporate formalities, reasonable internal controls, or due consideration of the financial well-being [of the other companies].”

Other defendants include Inpecos A.G., a Swiss company that allegedly took and gave money to the slew of Capeco related companies. Both FOI and Inpecos are owned by defendant GTRIMG Foundation, a Liechtenstein Trust established in the early 1980s that Gad Zeevi controls and whose beneficiaries are his wife and children. The lawsuit also lists Capeco’s insurer American International Group, Inc.; Cape Bruny owner United Product Tankers GmbH & Co. KG of Germany and UPT United Product Tankers LLC (Americas); UPT’s parent company Schoeller Holdings, Ltd.; and Schoeller subsidiaries Columbia Shipmanagement Ltd., Columbia Shipmanagement (Deutschland) GmbH., Cape Bruny Shipping Co. Ltd., and Cape Bruny Tankschiffahrts.

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For video of the fire, see

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