Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel has closed the evidence taking phase of a lawsuit to determine if the new hit lottery game, Mek Mi Rich, is a stolen idea. This is the allegation that Corozal businessman Curtis Swasey has accused the directors of Mek Mi Rich of doing, stealing his idea and reaping the commercial benefits of it.
Swasey has given sworn testimony that in 2012, he approached Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) with the idea of using their short messaging service (SMS) platform to allow Belizeans to buy lottery tickets for a lottery game he had developed. His idea, referred to as lottery texting, would provide him with BTL’s entire customer base as possible clients who could buy tickets using their SMS. It would also give the customers the security of an identification, and proof of ownership since the Government has mandated that every single phone number be registered to an owner. He claims that when he approached BTL on the concept, they signed an information exchange agreement, which is basically a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement, where neither side is allowed to reveal the sensitive information being discussed among both parties.
According to Swasey, he then moved on to discuss lottery texting with the technical staff at BTL. Swasey swears that he had to have detailed discussions and communication with BTL employees over the course of 2 years because from his estimation, they struggled to understand the concept. He claims that in late 2014, BTL abruptly ended the business relationship for the possible roll-out of his lottery game called “Super Slam Sunday”. He then accused BTL employees of breaking the non-disclosure agreement, sharing his concept with Andre Vega, the son of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, and Andre Vega’s business partner, Sunjay Hotchandani. They got into business and became the directors of MMR Belize Limited, the parent company of the Mek Mi Rich gameshow, which offers participants an opportunity to win a half a million dollars.
According to Swasey, armed with this information of his concept, Vega and Hotchandani worked with BTL to bring lottery texting online so that the game could actually be launched in September 2014, a few weeks after BTL ended their relationship with Swasey.
On Tuesday, December 3, Swasey, the claimant in this case, had to defend that story before Justice Courtney Abel in open court. BTL’s attorney, Magali Perdomo, questioned him intensely under cross examination and requested that he present a patent for lottery texting. For readers who don’t know, a patent is a legally registered document which proves that an inventor has exclusive rights over an invention or idea from a sovereign state. Swasey had to eventually concede that he does not have any patent for lottery texting, and that he does not legally own the idea.
Perdomo also told the court that in fact, lottery texting has been patented outside of Belize by an inventor as far back as 2004. She also disclosed to the court that BTL had another client before Curtis Swasey who was seeking to use lottery texting as a means to do business with BTL. At the height of her cross-examination, Perdomo suggested to Swasey that he has started a complex lawsuit against BTL and the directors of Mek Mi Rich on an inference that his idea was used. He cannot show ownership, and neither does he have any proof that BTL broke the non-disclosure agreement and shared his idea with Andre Vega and Sunjay Hotchandani. He rejected that suggestion, and maintained his position that BTL violated the non-disclosure and gave his idea to MMR Belize’s directors.
BTL representative Caryn Wilson was then called to the stand, and she explained to the court that BTL did indeed have another client, who properly explained the concept to them, but due to difficulties, that lottery texting game did not launch.
Kareem Musa, Swasey’s lead attorney got his opportunity to cross examine Wilson, and he asked her to explain why BTL had to seek so many clarifications from Swasey if they were so well-informed of how lottery texting work. She explained that they had to ask Swasey questions on how the system would work because if they helped him along in any way, or disclosed to him that they knew how the system should work, they would be breeching the non-disclosure they signed with that former client. She also explained that they kept requesting information from Swasey, not because they did not know how the system worked, but because Swasey failed to give them adequate information on how his game would work with BTL’s SMS network. She claims that BTL chose to end their working relationship with Swasey because he did not provide them with the information they needed to get the infrastructure up and running for his Super Slam Sunday lottery game.
Musa kept suggesting to Wilson that BTL did not know how the concept worked, and that’s why they kept requesting information from Swasey because they were clueless about lottery texting. He also put it to Wilson that BTL broke the non-disclosure and shared the idea with the principals of Mek Mi Rich. She rejected both suggestions. Mek Mi Rich Director Andre Vega was called to the stand where he explained that his business partner, Sunjay Hotchandani, pitched the idea for Mek Mi Rich based on a lottery game conducted by inventors in the US. He also explained that 1 year and several months of development that went into getting the lottery texting infrastructure up and running at BTL.
When Musa suggested to him that he and his business partner stole Swasey’s idea, he rejected that and asserted that Mek Mi Rich was developed within his company, and without any outside help. Hotchandani was called to testify as well, and he corroborated Vega’s story. After he was cross-examined the judge closed the evidence taking phase of the case and granted both sides time to submit oral arguments to the court. Once those are handed in, they will return to court on February 16, 2016 to present these arguments in open court. After that time, the case will be closed and Justice Abel will reserve judgment to a date he chooses.