BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 3, 2015–Almost one year after he first filed his lawsuit, Curtis Dale Swasey, a Corozal businessman, had his day in court when he took the witness stand to testify in the claim that he brought against Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Mek Mi Rich (MMR) Belize Limited, alleging that the two companies stole his idea for lottery by text messaging, using BTL’s network.
Following the testimonies of all the witnesses in the trial, the testimony phase of the trial ended late this evening with the attorneys agreeing to make written submissions to Supreme Court Justice Courtenay Abel by January 29. All the parties will return to court on February 16 to make oral submissions to the skeleton arguments that they will submit.
Swasey has alleged that Andre Vega, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar, and his business partner, Sunjay Hotchandani, the directors of Mek Mi Rich, collaborated with BTL to steal his original lottery texting idea.
Swasey is being represented by attorneys Kareem Musa and Wayne Piper, while BTL is being represented by attorney Magali Perdomo and Naima Barrow is representing MMR, Belize Limited.
Perdomo cross-examined Swasey, suggesting to him that he cannot claim an intellectual property rights violation, because he did not patent his idea.
Perdomo suggested to Swasey, “We are all here today based upon an inference you made, no evidence to support it, because my client never gave any information of yours to Mek Mi Rich.”
“Yes, they did,” Swasey replied.
“I put it to you that you never owned the idea and you came to court today with an inference,” Perdomo continued to assert in her cross-examination.
In re-examination of his client, Musa asked Swasey to read from an email that he received from BTL’s Executive in the Office of Strategy, Caryn Wilson.
“It was suggested to you, Mr. Swasey, in relation to these two that at no time did you provide the first defendant (BTL) with your floor charts, and in support of that position, they showed you these two emails.”
Musa asked his client to read from the email that Wilson had sent him.
“I can recall once that you submitted the technical flow of what happened when the user sends the six numbers…can you please send the final flow,” the portion of the email said.
The second witness for the claimant’s case was Paul Elliot, who stayed a short time on the witness stand and was only asked about three questions by BTL’s attorney.
Perdomo asked Elliot whether or not Swasey owned the concept of the text game. Elliot replied that he probably owns it, but he doesn’t know. The first time he heard about the concept was from Swasey, he said. Perdomo then asked Elliot whether it would surprise him if somebody else had the same idea. Elliot replied that he would not be surprised.
After the two witnesses for the claimant finished their testimonies, the first witness for the first defendant, Caryn Wilson, was called.
Throughout the intense cross-examination from Musa, Wilson failed to answer a number of questions and simply told the court that she did not recall. At times she said in an outright way that she did not understand the question.
In framing many of his questions to Wilson, Musa made reference to a number of emails that were exchanged between BTL and Swasey.
Wilson admitted to meeting Swasey for the first time at BTL’s Regent Street Albert Cattouse Building, where he had gone to discuss his business plans with Wilson and other senior BTL officials.
Wilson admitted that it was at that first meeting that Swasey pitched his business plan. On June 13, 2012, Swasey signed an agreement with BTL. Wilson said Swasey told them what he wanted and that they were to use the BTL network. After that initial signing between BTL and Swasey on January 24, 2012, another meeting was held, at which Swasey made a PowerPoint presentation.
Following that meeting, Swasey sent BTL a business plan by email, Wilson told the court.
He wrote in his email, “Ms. Wilson, I am forwarding the proposal to you.”
Under cross-examination, however, Wilson told the court that she did not recall if BTL’s finance officer was at the meeting.
Wilson also testified that she could not recall whether anybody at the meeting told Swasey that they were familiar with the concept that he had presented.
On August 7, 2014, BTL made a decision to postpone the project, Wilson told the court, because the project did not align with BTL’s current strategy for the fiscal year.
The final witnesses to testify were the two MMR directors, Andre Vega and Sunjay Hotchandani.
Musa suggested to Vega that when he approached BTL with his game plan, BTL already had the technical know-how of how to operate a lottery texting game using their network, because they had gotten it from his client, Swasey.
Musa also told Vega, “I don’t see any emails coming from you or Mr. Hotchandani, showing BTL how this lottery texting was going to work using their network.”
Vega replied, “That was not for me to know…”
“I’m suggesting to you that as of May 2013, BTL had already been trained in using their network for lottery texting. Do you have a single email to show that there was a back-and-forth on technical issues?” Musa pressed Vega.
Vega replied, “I would have to strongly disagree with that.”
Musa suggested to Vega, “BTL used all the technical information provided by Swasey over the two years and eight months period and they gave that information to you for you to benefit. BTL utilized the technical information from Mr. Swasey for you to benefit commercially.”
Vega again replied, “I would have to strongly disagree with you.”
Hotchandani’s time on the witness stand was brief, and Musa suggested to him, just as he had suggested to his partner, that there were no emails dealing with the technical aspects of lottery by texting, because BTL had already acquired the technical knowledge.
“I suggest to you that if the emails exist, they would have showed how your technical staff trained BTL staff, and if you had those emails you could have used them…,” Musa suggested.
Hotchandani replied, “No, we had to pay BTL to develop the software and to use their system.”
“I suggest to you that you used that information, knowing that you did not have the authority,” Musa said to Hotchandani
Hotchandani replied, “That’s not true. We were aware of SMS lottery before we entered into an agreement with BTL.”
All of the attorneys spoke to reporters following the hearing.
Barrow said, “I think that it’s clear that the claimant understands that SMS texting for lottery does not belong to him. At the end of the hearing we feel that we are in a comfortable place.”
Musa said, “I can’t get too much into the details of the case, at this time, as you know, it is still before the court. No doubt we are very pleased with what was presented to the court today. I don’t think it could have gone any better.”
Musa said that when the evidence is considered, it can clearly be seen that over two and a half years ago, Mr. Swasey had provided the technical information of lottery texting in Belize via the BTL network. “So I think that was clearly established that he was the one who came up with the concept. That is clearly established by the emails,” said Musa.
Perdomo said that the case went well for her client. She said that Mr. Swasey failed to show that BTL breached its confidentiality clause with him. He did not show an email, he did not show a text. He totally failed to show a breach of confidentiality, she said.