Billionaire jailed in dispute over U.S.-Canada bridge project

Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:23pm EST
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By David Bailey

(Reuters) - A judge ordered an 84-year old billionaire to jail on Thursday after finding him in contempt for failing to complete a construction project at Detroit's Ambassador Bridge, the busiest crossing between the United States and Canada.

Manuel "Matty" Moroun, an owner of the Detroit International Bridge Co that controls the Ambassador Bridge, along with company president Dan Stamper were booked at Wayne County Jail. They will be held until they comply with a February 2010 court order to complete the project, or until no longer have the power to do so.

"It is clear from the records of this case that only stern actions by the court will coerce them to fulfill their obligations," Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards wrote in a six-page ruling.

Moroun's son, Matthew Moroun, a company vice president, said in a statement that the process had "clearly become a personal vendetta by the judge against these individuals."

"Without a trial, without a jury, with no notice stating the reasons for them to appear, a judge viciously lashed out at Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper today and ordered a penalty outside the bounds of a civil case that was excessive, unwarranted and outrageous," Matthew Moroun said.

The company said it is planning to appeal the judge's ruling.

Stamper was ordered jailed briefly for contempt once before in the case, after Edwards found Detroit International Bridge in contempt in January 2011. He was released after the company assured the court that work would resume immediately on the project.

The privately-owned Ambassador Bridge is the busiest crossing between the United States and Canada, providing a continuous flow of auto parts and completed vehicles each way from Detroit to Windsor, Canada.   Continued...