In a downtown Manhattan courtroom, where the lawyers and clients up front outnumbered the observers seated in the back, where a forgotten Jewish Egyptian victim challenged an omnipresent multibillion-dollar multinational corporation; in a case where history itself was both on trial and being made, the Coca-Cola Company was publicly accused of being criminally enriched following the Nasser regime's Nazi-style expropriation of Jewish property. More than that, Coca-Cola was accused of obstructing, belittling and stonewalling a decades-long effort to obtain justice, and indeed trying to create a new revisionism that questions whether anti-Jewish persecution actually took place in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s.
On November 10, 2009, Egyptian exile Refael Bigio drove down from Montreal, his attorneys Nathan Lewin and Sherrie Savett trained in from Washington DC and Philadelphia, Coca-Cola's chief of litigation John Lewis flew up from Atlanta and the company's defense counsel Richard Cirillo only needed to make a short trip from midtown to argue whether the Coca-Cola Company quietly but consciously benefited when the Nasser regime nationalized Jewish property. The Bigios' property had long been leased by Coca-Cola and their bottle-cap factory made the caps for Coke's products. This factory, the property and related business ultimately became a multimillion dollar asset in the giant Atlanta beverage conglomerate's overseas portfolio.
The Egyptian government takeover of the Bigio family bottle-cap and tin plating factory occurred in 1962, during the openly anti-Jewish regime of president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Egypt's government subsequently ruled its Nasser-era seizure of the Bigio property was indeed illegal. Later, however, over the Bigios' objections, Coca-Cola entered into a joint venture to operate what is now the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt on the Bigios' seized property, without compensating the Bigios, according to court papers. The Bigios claim that Coke is and has been trespassing on stolen property.
Now, after years of litigation and fruitless negotiation, Bigio's attorneys have fired a stinging motion for summary judgment, asserting that the uncontradicted facts surrounding Coca-Cola's actions were so blatant that the court should immediately find the corporation liable.
"Coca-Cola is not," wrote attorney Nathan Lewin in his motion, "as it likes to portray itself, a trusting and guileless American corporation that in 1994 innocently purchased a 'minority interest' in some remote business entity that utilizes the Bigios' property. The undisputed evidence establishes that Coca-Cola witnessed how the Bigio family - with which it was intimately bound in a mutually profitable business relationship between the 1940s and 1962 - was victimized by Nasser's ethnic-cleansing policy of taking Jewish property and expelling Jews from Egypt."
Years later, Lewin asserts, after the Egyptian government took minimal steps to remedy the religiously discriminatory brutality of the Nasser regime, Coca-Cola happily took control - through entities which it now claims cannot be "pierced" - of property that Coca-Cola knows was immorally and illegally plundered from the Bigios."