Green Investment Group may claim defamation 

The Green Investment Group, Inc., which last year bought the former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill in Frenchtown, has apparently threatened to sue VanTek Inc., a Washington-based supplier of used paper mill equipment and a former GIGI business partner, over information VanTek recently provided to the Independent regarding GIGI's solvency.

Last month, VanTek President Gordon Cassie forwarded to the Indy an email, sent from VanTek's attorney to GIGI's attorney on April 10, explaining why VanTek requested that a Washington judge pull its breach-of-contract case against GIGI. As was published in "Pulp fiction" in the Indy on April 19, VanTek's attorney Donald Grant wrote that "it appears that [GIGI] will never be able to pay back" the $19 million loan it secured from a Seattle-area real estate developer to buy the Frenchtown mill, and "it also appears that GIGI is headed for insolvency and will likely never be able to pay back any judgment."

Through his attorney, Cassie now says in a statement that he retracts "any impression regarding GIGI's financial situation attributed to the email. ... I regret sending the email and any harm that the impression regarding GIGI's financial situation may have caused."

Montana law states that in order to claim punitive damages over defamation, "the defamed person shall first give those alleged to be responsible or liable for the publication or broadcast a reasonable opportunity to correct the defamatory matter."

GIGI President Ray Stillwell told the Indy last month that VanTek's decision not to go forward with the suit had "nothing to do with financial information."

VanTek filed suit against GIGI in June 2011, about a month after GIGI acquired the Frenchtown mill. About two years earlier, VanTek signed an agreement with GIGI to partner in buying former paper mills. They created a company called VanGreen. VanTek claimed in the lawsuit that it spent 18 months working to acquire the Frenchtown mill through VanGreen only to have GIGI pull out of their agreement at the last minute and acquire it separately.

Missoula-area real estate agent Tom Dauenhauer also filed a breach-of-contract claim against GIGI. That case remains open.

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