Saturday, March 10, 2007

Coca-Cola case may be heard in Egyptian court

NEW YORK (JTA) – For nearly three decades, Refael Bigio has struggled to recover assets taken from his family by the Egyptian government as part of the country's broad seizure of Jewish-owned property.

Bigio's grandfather had owned a factory 45 minutes from downtown Cairo










in an area he describes as "prime real estate." In the 1930s the Coca-Cola Company rented space from the Bigios for its first bottling operations in Egypt. Later the Bigios opened a factory that produced bottle caps for the company.

Egypt sequestered the property in 1962 and formed a new company, the El Nasr Bottling Company, from the merger of Bigio's company and Coca-Cola's Egyptian subsidiary. The Bigios were driven from the country three years later and since 1979 have been trying to recover the property.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether an Egyptian court is the appropriate venue for Bigio's lawsuit against Coca-Cola, which has moved repeatedly to have the case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.

Jewish refugees from Arab lands have stepped up their efforts in recent years to document the losses they suffered and to balance the narrative of Palestinian refugees with international recognition of their histories.

But the Bigio family, which now resides in Canada, enjoys certain advantages over other Jewish refugees.

For one, the Egyptian government already has decreed that the property should be returned to the family, though the order was never carried out. Bigio also is pursuing litigation against an American company that is subject to American law and vulnerable to American public opinion.

The Bigio case has also benefited from the attention of the Zionist Organization of America, which is now calling for a boycott of the company.(...)

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola told JTA that Egyptian courts have ruled in favor of Jewish families who lost property.

Moreover, she said there are outstanding questions regarding Bigio's claims that cannot be adequately considered in an American court.

"The company doesn't know what exactly transpired," the spokeswoman said. "There are a ton of questions that have been brought to bear, and we believe that if the case is addressed in Egypt, the questions can be answered."

But Bigio, now 63, says his claims are well documented and if they are allowed to be heard in an American court, he will surely prevail.

"I have no doubt," he said. "Because we are the owner of these assets, and these assets were stolen from us, and you can't go and buy stolen assets. All the profits that Coca-Cola is generating out of Egypt, my family, my mother has a share."

Read article in full

Zionist Organisation of America calls for boycott of Coca-Cola:

"The Arab and Islamic countries that persecuted their Jewish citizens have never had to answer for their conduct. The approximately 900,000 Jews who were uprooted from their homes were made instant refugees, yet they have never been compensated. It is truly shameful that an American company like Coca-Cola, regarding itself as a great corporate citizen, has been participating in and reaping the benefits from this campaign of anti-Semitism. Americans of every background should be appalled by Coca-Cola's actions."

1 comment:

Yankee Doodle said...

"Jewish refugees from Arab lands have stepped up their efforts in recent years to document the losses they suffered and to balance the narrative of Palestinian refugees with international recognition of their histories."

This needs to happen.