Egyptian-Jews seek rehearing in Coca-Cola case
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
Bigio family says their land, confiscated in Nasser's anti-Jewish purges, is now Coca-Cola Egypt's HQ.
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 on Wednesday, asking judges to
restore his family’s lawsuit against the Coca-Cola company.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.”
After the Nasser regime
took the Bigios’ land, the family fled Egypt and the UN classified them as
refugees. They made their way to France, where they were granted
Washington-based lawyers Nathan Lewin and Alyza D.
Lewin, members of the Bigio family’s defense team, said on Wednesday that in the
past, Coca-Cola had claimed that Nasser’s nationalization of Jewish property was
legal and did not violate international law, and that the Egyptian government
therefore holds the Bigios’ property “as of right.”
However, the Bigios’
attorneys have argued that Nasser’s anti-Jewish purge was a clear violation of
international law, and that Coca-Cola, which had conducted business with the
Bigios before the purge, was aware that the property had been expropriated from
The lawyers said that detailed facts about Coca- Cola’s
internal operations concerning their purchase of ENBC could only be proved by
evidence exclusively in the company’s files.
“The full roster of Second
Circuit Judges will surely see that the panel’s clearly erroneous decision is
grossly unjust and rewards Coca-Cola for litigation tactics that conceal the
role that its highest corporate officers played in exploiting property
confiscated from its owners only because they are Jewish,” attorney Nathan Lewin
Meanwhile, despite over a decade and a half of litigation against
Coca-Cola, the Bigio family expressed optimism on Wednesday.
has always considered the USA as an example of righteousness in this world. Our
story is one of flagrant abuse, first by an anti-Jewish government, then by a
greedy corporate Goliath,” Raphael Bigio said.
“We hope and pray that our
case will demonstrate that regardless of who you are, you will be judged in
accordance with your deeds and not by what you pretend to be. We have faith that
justice can and will ultimately be found in the USA.”