United States District Court, D. Columbia.
MICHALI TOUMAZOU, et. al., Plaintiffs,
TURKISH REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN CYPRUS, et. al., Defendants
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Michali Toumazou, Plaintiff: Athan Theodore Tsimpedes, LEAD ATTORNEY, TSIMPEDES LAW FIRM, Washington, DC USA; Robert J. Shelist, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT J. SHELIST, P.C., Chicago, IL USA.
For Nicolas Kantzilaris, Plaintiff: Athan Theodore Tsimpedes, LEAD ATTORNEY, TSIMPEDES LAW FIRM, Washington, DC USA; Robert J. Shelist, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT J. SHELIST, P.C., Chicago, IL USA.
For Maroulla Tompazou, Individually and on behalf of all others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff: Athan Theodore Tsimpedes, LEAD ATTORNEY, TSIMPEDES LAW FIRM, Washington, DC USA; Robert J. Shelist, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT J. SHELIST, P.C., Chicago, IL USA.
For Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, An unincorporated association of organized crime, also known as TRNC, Defendant: David S. Saltzman, LEAD ATTORNEY, SALTZMAN & EVINCH, P.C., Washington, DC USA; Steven R. Perles, LEAD ATTORNEY, PERLES LAW FIRM, P.C., Washington, DC USA; Edward B. MacAllister, PERLES LAW FIRM, PC, Washington, DC USA.
Hsbc Holdings Plc, Defendant, Pro se.
Hsbc Group, Defendant, Pro se.
For Hsbc Bank USA, N.A., Defendant: Michael Orth Ware, LEAD ATTORNEY, MAYER BROWN LLP, New York, N.Y. USA; Andrew John Pincus, MAYER BROWN, LLP, Washington, DC USA.
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.
This litigation arises out of the protracted conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. See generally Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., 917 F.2d 278, 280-81 (7th Cir. 1990); Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. 5, 7 (D.D.C. 1998). " The Cypriot people have long been a divided people, approximately three-fourths being of Greek descent and Greek-Orthodox faith, the other quarter of Turkish descent and Muslim faith" . Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., 917 F.2d at 280-81. Formerly under Ottoman and then British control, the Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960 by mutual agreement between Greece, Turkey, and Great Britain. Id. at 280. Animosity between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who desired unification with Greece or Turkey respectively, resurfaced shortly thereafter. Id. Intercommunal violence was common throughout the 1960's and early '70s. Id.
This tension erupted in July 1974 when the Greek Cypriot military ousted the joint Cypriot government. TRNC Statement of Facts at 9; Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. at 7. In response, Turkey invaded Cyprus. TRNC Statement of Facts at 10; Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. at 7. In the bitter conflict that ensued, both sides committed atrocities. See TRNC Statement of Facts at 9-10; Compl. ¶ 12; Pls. Mot. to Amend. Ex. 2 ¶ ¶ 15-16. By the time a cease-fire was declared in August of 1974, Turkey had taken control of approximately one third of Cyprus, leaving many Greek Cypriots as refugees. Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-11; TRNC Statement of Facts at 10-11; Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. at 7. To this day, United Nations peacekeeping forces maintain the " Green Line" that separates the Turkish-occupied north from the rest of Cyprus. Compl. ¶ 17; TRNC Statement of Facts at 12; Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. at 7.
In the aftermath, Turkish Cypriots established a functioning government called the " Turkish Federated State of Cyprus," which was succeeded by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. TRNC Statement of Facts at 12; Crist v. Republic of Turkey, 995 F.Supp. at 7. The TRNC claimed ownership of all property it deemed was " abandoned" by Greek Cypriots who fled south. Compl. ¶ 17. This " abandoned" property was redistributed to Turkish Cypriots who, in return, were required to renounce their rights to property in southern Cyprus. TRNC Statement of Facts at 17-18.
The plaintiffs, Greek Cypriots, filed the instant proposed class action suit on October
19, 2009, bringing varied claims, alleging that the TRNC unlawfully confiscated their property in northern Cyprus in 1974, Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-14, 18-20, and has masterminded a broad scheme to profit from and sell these properties " in the United States, Europe and around the world with the aid, assistance and support of HSBC." Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiffs allege that the HSBC defendants " do business with the TRNC through the north of Cyprus and the United States and knowingly aid, assist, support and benefit from the fraudulent property scheme of the TRNC." Id. ¶ 46.
The TRNC filed its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on March 26, 2010; plaintiffs requested leave to file a third amended complaint on April 12, 2011. The proposed amended complaint seeks to add 758 individual plaintiffs and several new claims. The HSBC defendants filed their motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on November 15, 2011. Their primary argument is that the plaintiffs have failed to adequately plead that the HSBC defendants are liable for the alleged acts of a Turkish subsidiary, HSBC A.S., which operates three branches in northern Cyprus.
Upon consideration of the parties' arguments, the relevant legal authorities, and the record in this case, the Court concludes that it lacks personal jurisdiction over the TRNC and that the complaint fails to state a claim against the HSBC defendants. For the same reasons, the Court also finds that it would be futile to permit plaintiffs to file an amended complaint. On September 30, 2014, the Court granted both motions to dismiss with prejudice and denied plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend. This Opinion explains the reasoning underlying that September 30, 2014 Order.
I. TRNC'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION
The plaintiffs assert that this Court has personal jurisdiction over the TRNC pursuant to: (1) D.C. Code § 13-334(a), which authorizes general jurisdiction over foreign corporations " doing business" in the District of Columbia; and (2) D.C. Code § 13-423(a)(1), which authorizes specific jurisdiction over defendants who " transact business" in the District of Columbia. Pls. TRNC Opp. at 10-17. The Court disagrees and ...