American billionaire Manuel Moroun, majority shareholder of the Detroit International Bridge Company, has been jailed following a failure by the family business to complete a construction project.
The 84-year-old was found to be in contempt of a court order to complete construction work at the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest international crossing that connects Detroit in the US with Windsor in Canada.
According to media reports, Moroun will be in custody until the privately-held company complies with the ruling to finish the project. Along with Moroun, non-family president Dan Stamper was also jailed.
The process has “clearly become a personal vendetta by the judge against these individuals”, said second-generation Matthew Moroun, who is vice-president of the family-owned company, in a statement. The company is appealing the decision.
The judge also imposed a fine of $7,500 (€5,864) on the bridge-making group, which is the maximum under Michigan state law for civil contempt. The incomplete project, named the Gateway project, planned to connect the Ambassador Bridge directly to freeway areas in the US.
Moroun, one of the richest people in the US with a fortune of more than $1.5 billion, took ownership of the famous bridge in 1979 after buying Warren Buffett’s 25% stake and the shares held by the Bower family. He owns the bridge-maker through a number of family trusts.
Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume, and has featured in films such as 8 Mile and the Michael Moore-directed Bowling for Columbine.