DC Circuit affirms dismissal of Chalabi lawsuit against Jordan

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the Kingdom of Jordan [official website; JURIST news archive] by Ahmad Chalabi [BBC profile; INC profile, in Arabic], who led the US-backed Iraqi opposition movement during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The court affirmed a 2004 decision [PDF text] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] holding that Chalabi's claims were time-barred. Chalabi alleged that Jordan had engaged in a conspiracy violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [text] (RICO) and committed various torts by seizing Petra Bank [Salon report], which Chalabi founded in 1977. In its opinion, a DC Circuit panel wrote:

Chalabi admits that the statute of limitations for his common-law tort claims is three years, and he does not dispute that his claim accrued when he learned of the plot against him in 1989. Nonetheless, he maintains that he properly pled a "continuing tort." ... [E]ven on the continuing tort theory, Chalabi recognizes that, because he was aware of his injury as of 1989, his recovery is limited to injuries sustained within the limitations period that immediately preceded the filing of his complaint. ... Thus, to have any prospect of even limited recovery, Chalabi must at a minimum show that he was injured within that time frame.

Chalabi's own complaint, and the liquidation decree that it quotes, preclude such a showing. ... Chalabi's position is akin to that of a car-theft victim who alleges that his vehicle was stolen a
decade ago and now complains that the thief is leasing it at below-market rates. Any current mismanagement is being visited upon someone else's asset.
The panel noted that the district court's dismissal based on the statute of limitations was the "easiest path to resolving this case," saving the parties the expense of discovery to ascertain whether the court had personal jurisdiction over Jordan.

Chalabi filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2004, alleging that Jordan's government had wrongfully seized the bank and continued to smear his reputation by linking him with intelligence leaks to Iran. He claimed the bank seizure and embezzlement charges against him were an effort to keep him from revealing Jordan's illegal arms deals with Saddam Hussein. As leader of the Iraqi National Congress [organization website], Chalabi was once a frontrunner to head the Iraqi government after Hussein was deposed. After counterfeiting charges against him were dismissed for insufficient evidence, Chalabi went on to serve as oil minister and then deputy prime minister [JURIST reports] of Iraq for parts of 2005 and 2006.

 

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