Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Case of the Day: United States v. All Assets Held in Account No. 80020796, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35096 (D.D.C. Mar. 5, 2018)


U.S. government filed an in rem forfeiture action involving several types of properties (including a bank account) that allegedly are the proceeds of corruption by Nigeria's former president and his cronies. Several individuals, all of whom were relatives of one of the cronies, filed claims of interest in certain investment portfolios subject to the in rem action. The claimants alleged they were beneficiaries of a Singaporean trust which held those portfolios. Government moved for a summary judgment based on lack of standing.

For the most part, the court granted the motion for summary judgment. The court analyzed the Singaporean law to determine that all claimants except one have no property interest in the specific property owned by the trust of which they are beneficiaries. The court found that although the claimants may have an unvested, contingent interest in the property, such interest is not enough. The court also refused to allow reverse veil-piercing between the trust and its beneficiaries.


Here is my favorite type of case caption: the United States versus a piece of property. And an important private international law showcase to boot! The principle is simple enough: the property interest is defined by the laws under which the interest is created. But it is nonetheless a bit mind-bending to see the U.S. court confidently analyzing foreign laws.

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