United States District Court, District of Columbia
VIPULA D. VALAMBHIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, et al., Defendants.
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Vipula D. Valambhia, Priscilla D. Valambhia, Bhavna D.
Valambhia, Punita D. Valambhia, and Krishnakant D. Valambhia,
bring this action under the District of Columbia's
Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act, D.C.
Code §§ 15-361 to 15-371, against Defendants United
Republic of Tanzania, the Bank of Tanzania, and the Ministry
of Defence and National Service, for recognition and
enforcement of a foreign money judgment rendered in Tanzania
against Defendants. Currently pending before the court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 13, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
reasons explained below, the court will
GRANT Defendants' motion. Because the
court finds that it does not have subject matter
jurisdiction, it need not reach Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6)
1985, the Tanzanian Ministry of Defence, on behalf of
Tanzania, ordered troop carriers, tanks, and other military
equipment as part of a contract with Transport Equipment Ltd.
(“TEL”), an Irish corporation. Plaintiffs'
First Amended Complaint ¶ 12, ECF No. 12 (“Am.
Compl.”). The Plaintiffs' decedent, Devram
Valambhia (“Valambhia”), was the Director General
of TEL. Id. Valambhia's family has lived in the
United States since 1981. Id.
paid the amounts due under the military equipment contract
through the Bank of Tanzania (“the Bank”) from
1986 to 1989. Id. ¶ 13. After some dispute, TEL
and Valambhia entered into an Irrevocable Agreement on
January 4, 1989, stating that Valambhia should receive 45% of
the total amount due under the contract. Id.
¶¶ 13-14. On June 10, 1989, Tanzania signed a new
contract acknowledging the Irrevocable Agreement between TEL
and Valambhia and pledging to pay Valambhia in U.S. dollars
the amount due to him under the initial contract.
Id. ¶ 15. Tanzania began to make payments to
Valambhia from its Federal Reserve Bank of New York account
in the United States. Id.
then tried to challenge the validity of these agreements
through a long, highly-publicized series of court cases that
lasted over fourteen years. See Id. ¶¶
17-23; Decl. of Meredith B. Parenti, Ex. F, ECF No. 12-1,
Richard Mgamba, “Revealed: The most expensive legal
suit in Dar's history, ” The Guardian, June 28,
2009, at 1-2. In 1991, the High Court of Tanzania entered a
High Court Decree which stated that Valambhia and his family
were entitled to 45% of the amount unpaid on the contract
between Tanzania and TEL. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. In 2001,
after roughly a decade of further litigation, the High Court
of Tanzania entered a Garnishee Order that required the Bank
of Tanzania to pay Valambhia the amount owed under the High
Court Decree. Id. ¶ 19. The Bank challenged the
validity of the Garnishee Order, but the High Court found it
to be proper. Id. ¶ 20. The Bank then appealed
this ruling in the Court of Appeal of Tanzania, the
country's highest court. Id. ¶ 20. In 2003,
the Court of Appeal held that the Garnishee Order was
“final and conclusive” and denied the Bank any
right to appeal. Id.
the Bank continued to refuse to comply with the Garnishee
Order, and the High Court issued against the Bank of Tanzania
an order to show cause why it should not be held in contempt.
Id. ¶ 21. After rejecting the Bank's
argument regarding its inability to pay the amounts due to
Valambhia and his family, the High Court held the Bank's
Governor in contempt and ordered him to pay a fine or serve a
term of imprisonment. Id. Valambhia died in Tanzania
in 2005, id. ¶ 24, and the Bank has never paid
his family, id. ¶ 23.
Valambhia family, Devram Valambhia's sole heirs, now
files this suit under the D.C. Uniform Foreign-Country Money
Judgments Recognition Act, D.C. Code §§ 15-361 to
15-371, to recognize and enforce the foreign money judgment
rendered in Tanzania. Id. ¶ 1.
LEGAL STANDARD FOR RULE 12(B)(1)
defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). “It is
the burden of the party claiming subject matter jurisdiction
to demonstrate that it exists.” Georgiades v.
Martin-Trigona, 729 F.2d 831, 833 n.4 (D.C. Cir. 1984)
(citation omitted). The court “assume[s] the truth of
all material factual allegations in the complaint and
construe[s] the complaint liberally, granting plaintiff the
benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged, and upon such facts determine[s] jurisdictional
questions.” American National Ins. Co. v.
FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quotations
marks and citations omitted). A court “may consider
materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant
a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.”
Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249,
1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1602
et seq. (“FSIA”) “entitles foreign
states to immunity from the jurisdiction of courts in the
United States, subject to certain enumerated
exceptions.” Saudi Arabia v. Nelson, 507 U.S.
349, 351 (1993) (citations omitted). The FSIA provides the
“sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign
state in the courts of this country.” Id. at
355. “Courts may hear a case only if one of the [FSIA]
exceptions applies because subject-matter jurisdiction in any
such action depends on that application.” Simon v.
Republic of Hungary, 911 F.3d 1172, 1177 (D.C. Cir.
2018) (quotation marks and citations omitted).
concede that Defendants are foreign sovereigns. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 5-7. Therefore, to establish this court's
subject matter jurisdiction over Defendants, Plaintiffs must
demonstrate that one of the FSIA exceptions to immunity
applies. Relevant to this case is the so-called
“commercial activities exception.” See
28 U.S.C. ...