In the latest round of a protracted struggle, Raphael Bigio, an Egyptian Jewish businessman who alleges Coca-Cola Egypt is refusing to compensate him for use of his family’s expropriated property in Cairo, filed a petition in a US appeals court last week, asking judges to restore his family’s lawsuit against the Coca-Cola company. The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Ari, Lily):
In his petition to the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for Bigio charged that Coca-Cola Egypt is making use of property belonging to his family in Cairo’s Heliopolis suburb that was expropriated during the early 1960s in an anti- Jewish purge by then-president Gamel Abdel Nasser’s regime.
Bigio’s lawyers said that for 15 years, the Coca-Cola Company has refused to negotiate with the family for fair compensation for the property, although the global soft drinks giant has made hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from Coca-Cola Egypt.
In the 1930s, decades before to the property’s expropriation, the Bigio family had leased it to Coca-Cola, which was “fully aware that the property had been stolen from the family without compensation,” the family’s lawyers said. Wednesday’s appeal filing comes after the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York dismissed Bigio’s case against Coca-Cola in March on the grounds that the Bigios had “not sufficiently alleged that the Coca-Cola Company headquarters in the US controlled Coca- Cola Egypt.”
Despite that ruling, however, judges did acknowledge that the Bigios’ lawyers had established that the el-Nasr Bottling Company (ENBC), the Egyptian government-owned firm that Coca-Cola purchased in 1994 and renamed Coca-Cola Egypt, had in fact trespassed on the Bigio family’s property.
In their petition, the Bigio family’s legal team argue that the judges dismissed the claim before Coca-Cola even answered the complaint, and before the plaintiffs were given opportunity for discovery, the pre-trial phase where parties can obtain evidence from each other including by requests for production of documents.
The Bigios’ lawyers added that Coca-Cola has “stonewalled” the family since 1994, when the family first expressed its objections to the company’s purchase of ENBC.
“Since 1997 [Coca-Cola] have also successfully blocked the family’s litigation from advancing beyond its initial stage,” the Bigios’ lawyers added.
The Bigio family is among the many Egyptian Jews from whom the Egyptian authorities under Nasser’s “Arab socialist” regime expropriated and nationalized land and property.
In November 1961, the Beirut newspaper al-Hayat printed the text of a Nasser decree, which stated that “all Jews included in the list of sequestrations are deprived of their civic rights and cannot serve as guardians, caretakers or proxies in any business association or club.”