Pardon my Engulish!

11 January 2010

In Greece, on Tuesday May 5, 2009, at noon, ‘me the below expert bound by oath and assigned by the Chairman of the Chamber of ‘Town’, with his document attended today to operate and expert report on behalf of the Chamber. ‘The expert report was enquired by the ‘buyer’ to examine the lot of leathers that the applicant firm received from ‘the sellers’, a firm whose registered office is at ‘Country’ of Africa. The applicant firm claims that the products that she received are different from those ordered, and in particular they had suffered from scraping of machine.

After moving into the place where the specific products are situated, which is the tannery of the demanding firm, among with the secretary who was appointed for this reason, employee of the Chamber of ‘Town’, we proceeded to the accomplishment of the specific command that was assigned to me by the Chairman of the Chamber and expose the below:
‘The expert valuation took place in the presence of the representative of the
applicant. After accomplishing detailed examination of the three lots of leathers liquid salt coming from ‘Country’, Africa, discovered that the above leathers have engineering scrapping and that the front part of them, called as ‘face-leather’
suffers from deterioration by reason of long-aged maintenance in percentage of 65%.’
The above verbatim ‘expert report’ (I only omitted and changed names) was signed by the representative of the buyer, the expert and the secretary (of the Chamber of ‘Town’).
Under this was handwritten: ‘This is a real translation from Greek to Engulish language’ and dated August 10, 2009. The translator’s English teacher will have
some difficulty to give an ‘A’ for this real translation.
Let me give you the background information. A container of hand-flayed wet-salted abattoir cattle hides from an African origin was sold by an English trader to a Greek buyer at US$1.55 per kg C&F Piraeus.
The contract clauses were those of the International Hide and Skin Contract no. 6 and the goods arrived in Piraeus,
presumably on January 8 when the buyer paid the documents at his bank. Place of inspection Piraeus. Arbitration Genoa. The container reached the tannery of the buyer on January 24.
Weighing of the full container took place at destination, not at the place of inspection, without the sellers being
notified on January 23 and the empty
container was weighed the next day.
The buyer has never issued a claim for weight nor for quality, and the shippers had no idea of anything not being 100% right. On the contrary the shippers were sure that the lot was correct, accepted and fully representative of the contract description, until they received a
threatening letter dated August 10, 2009, from a Greek lawyer who demanded the hides to be taken back and the invoice value be fully reimbursed.
The lawyer included the above copied expert report as his justification, the
official weigh note, and the original of the contract, advising the shippers: ‘If you don’t accept to take back the leathers or to return the money, I have from my client order to report you:
a) to the Chamber of London
b) to the Government of the United Kingdom
c) to the persecutor of London about the fraud you have done to the buyers,
d) to deposit and action against you to the justice.’
My problem with the International Hide and Skin Contracts is with the fact that they are worth nothing because nobody adheres to them (the present case is an example) and because arbitrations cannot be fully implemented, whereas I fully agree with the contents of the
No doubt these contracts need to be adjusted once in a while due to the
changing times but, in principle, their
clauses make a lot of sense and would, if adhered to, avoid most of the problems shippers have experienced with buyers in the declining market we have just left behind us, provided of course that people are basically honest.
So let’s go back to the Greek  buyer. He realises that the market has dropped
dramatically. He needs to reduce his losses and considers whether to get rid of the goods or get a price reduction.
In order to reach his goal he ‘discovers’ some five months after the arrival of his wet-salted hides that they have some defects and recruits for the sake of
credibility the services of his local
chamber of commerce who help him out  
with an ‘expert’ (a local tanner) to perform an ‘expertise’.
This expert doesn’t mention how many hides he has inspected, taken from what pallet, and which of the remaining pallets are still in their original condition. Strangely the expert doesn’t make a salt tare or maybe he understands that this is a useless exercise.
The capabilities of the expert are
questionable. The translation of the expertise is so bad that it takes more than a lot of imagination to understand what is
supposedly wrong with these hides. The reader must be clairvoyant.
Or maybe I am not experienced enough to know what an ‘engineering scrapping’ is, which should be presumably the same as ‘mechanical scraping’. The chamber of commerce and the expert probably don’t even look at the contract and thus don’t realise that the claim is time-barred (Clause 18) and that disputes must be resolved by private treaty and if that is not possible by arbitration (Clause 23).
Clause 23.2 specifically states that ‘no party may begin an action in the courts under this contract until the dispute has been determined by arbitration’ and then only to enforce the award.
The seller is informed for the first time on August 10 about a claim concerning goods that have arrived some seven months earlier. The ‘expertise’ on the goods was performed four months after their arrival but the seller was never informed.
The expertise is incomplete and not understandable. The time-bar is clear and indisputable. No room for negotiation or interpretation.
The motivation is also clear: the market! The market drops from US$1.55 to US$0.55 which on a 22 tonne load means a difference of US$22,000, which is not peanuts. This obviously should ring a bell or better sound a foghorn.
The client obviously wants to try his luck and hopes to wrestle concessions from the sellers. The lawyer takes on the case because he makes money from it, whatever, right or wrong, and (probably) doesn’t tell his client about the time-bar nor about the arbitration clause. Maybe he didn’t even read or understand the clauses of the contract.
The ‘expert’ writes his report as required to suit the claim and gets (probably) paid for it or does a favour to a colleague. The thing that surprises me, however, is why a chamber of commerce let themselves become involved in such a muddy matter. A chamber of commerce issues certificates of origin, which are serious documents used in international trade.
One supposes that they are serious about sworn statements, and I wonder if this can be performed with a chamber of commerce rather than with a court.
This is especially strange because the Greek customs and veterinary authorities are known as being very serious and the most difficult in the European Union when it comes to certification of imported hides and skins.
I was not aware that London had an official ‘persecutor’…. I wonder if the Government of Her Majesty will be willing to entertain an eventual complaint issued by the Greek lawyer, and I wonder if the buyer realises that the knife of fraud that he points at the seller can be turned against himself if he pursues the matter.

Sam Setter
[email protected]

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