Coca-Cola Denies Nasser Regime's Persecution of Egyptian Jews in Lawsuit

Jan 27, 2010, 16:32 ET from Berger & Montague, P.C. from ,Lewin & Lewin LLP

NEW YORK, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a letter filed yesterday in federal court, opposing a motion filed by the Egyptian Jews whose property, now occupied by Coca-Cola, was confiscated by the Egyptian government in 1962, Coca-Cola asserted that what was done to Egypt's Jews in the early 1960's "was not targeted at a particular religious community" but was a "steady plan to nationalize Egypt's agrarian, commercial, financial, and industrial economy."

The Egyptian government has acknowledged that the property was seized illegally and rightfully belongs to the Bigio family, which has brought suit against Coca-Cola. The seizure was part of what scholars and historians generally agree was persecution of the Jewish population under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser between 1952 and 1965.

In 2009, the Bigios filed a request for summary judgment to establish that Coca-Cola is liable for exploiting "for immense profit" property that Coca-Cola has been occupying since 1994 with the knowledge that the property had been taken unlawfully. Oral arguments were heard in the federal district court on November 10, 2009. Letters filed yesterday by Coca-Cola and the Bigio family are part of a supplemental briefing requested by the Court on the legality under international law of Nasser's seizure of Jewish property. The case has been before the courts since 1997.

Coca-Cola also argued in its submission in the Bigio case that religious persecution is permitted by international law because it is not as bad as slavery or torture. The company contends that current international-law prohibitions against religious persecution do not apply to Coca-Cola because they were adopted after the Nasser government confiscated the Bigio properties.

Nathan Lewin, one of the Bigio family's attorneys, said, "We were shocked at Coca-Cola's total insensitivity to the horrible experiences of Egyptian Jewish victims of Nasser's persecution. Senator Thomas Dodd contemporaneously called it 'the most malevolent international hate campaign against the Jews as Jews since the Hitler years.' In order to avoid compensating for its exploitation of property that it knew Nasser had confiscated from a Jewish family, Coca-Cola has joined the ranks of anti-Semites who pervert history and deny the worst persecutions of the Jewish people."

Coca-Cola was aware that the Bigios owned the land, buildings, business, factory and machinery involved in this case because the two companies did business together for more than 20 years prior to the seizure of the properties. In 1965, the Bigio family, left destitute by the seizure of their property and business, immigrated, as stateless persons, to Montreal where they now reside.

In 1994, after it was informed by the Bigio family of the Egyptian government's determination that the family owned the property, Coca-Cola occupied the property through its ownership interest in Egyptian companies bearing the Coca-Cola name.

The Bigios are represented by Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin of Lewin & Lewin LLP; and Sherrie R. Savett, Arthur M. Stock, Douglas M. Risen and Shoshana M. Savett of Berger & Montague, P.C.

Lewin & Lewin LLP

Lewin & Lewin specializes in federal appellate and trial litigation and consults with lawyers and clients in complex criminal and civil matters in federal courts. Lewin & Lewin also represents clients and assists attorneys in relations with federal legislative, executive and administrative agencies.

Berger & Montague, P.C.

Berger & Montague, founded in 1970, has more than 70 attorneys who concentrate their practice in complex litigation including human rights, antitrust, securities and investor fraud, commercial litigation, consumer protection, employee benefits/ERISA, employment, environmental and mass tort, insurance practices and whistleblower/qui tam.

SOURCE Berger & Montague, P.C.; Lewin & Lewin LLP