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April 24, 2008 - Image 43

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-04-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Coke averred, "Prior to submission of
the bid for the purchase of the Egyptian
bottler by a Coca-Cola Company subsid-
iary, a due diligence investigation was
conducted. The investigation did not
reveal any pending claims by the Bigios
against ENBC."
But in fact, Coca-Cola did know in
detail, according to correspondence
and other documents obtained by this
reporter. The record details numer-
ous calls and letter after letter by Bigio
warning the company not to proceed
until compensation had been arranged.
These letters went to senior officials
including top attorneys in Coca-Cola's
Legal Department.
For example, on February 4, 1994,
Bigio wrote Joseph 0. Gladden, board
member and chief of the company's
legal department, "We wish to hereby
confirm our telephone conversation of
yesterday by which we have advised
you that we have started a lawsuit in
Egypt to stop the sale of Coca-Cola
Egypt. As I have informed you, the Bigio
Family owns the 10,000 square meters
on which El Nasr Bottling has its ware-
house in Heliopolis (Cairo) ..." Bigio
even enclosed a clip from an Egyptian
newspaper that had covered the contro-
versial pending sale.

Moving Ahead
Despite abundant warnings and
requests for reasonableness, Coca-Cola
went ahead and in 1994 acquired ENBC,
renaming it The Coca-Cola Bottling
Company of Egypt.
A telling June 20, 1995, letter to Coca-
Cola attorneys in Atlanta with a copy to
Chairman Roberto C. Goizueta, recounts
the Bigios's dismay just before a planned
meeting on the topic: "Mr. Hall ... stat-
ed:1 wonder, is there really a reason to
meet as we have just finalized our deal
with the Egyptian Government which
we just signed a week ago: To which we
replied: "How could you have done such
a thing!"
In recent years, Bigio's cause was
taken up by Mort Klein, executive
director of the Zionist Organization of
America. In the run-up to Coca-Cola's
2007 annual shareholder meeting, Klein
threatened a boycott of Coke. The media
was filled with brief articles about
Bigio's "David and Goliath" struggle.
The noise was enough to get Coca-Cola's
attention. To assuage Klein and quiet the
tumult, Coca-Cola promised to negotiate
fairly with Bigio's attorneys to resolve
the matter.
A year later, little has happened to
show progress, according to those close
to the legal team. Coke to this day con-

tinues to pay a mere $350 for rent on
the Bigio property — not to the .Bigios
but to Misr Insurance Company.
An angry Klein said he has given up
waiting for fairness from Coca-Cola.
"For a year" he said, "Coca-Cola made
no more than a miserly offer on the
properties despite a valuation of mil-
lions. Coke's conduct is completely
absurd!'
Attorney Lewin who has been head-
ing the stalemated negotiations agreed,
the Coke offer is "world's apart:' from
the economic value of the property.
Klein vowed to throw a protest line in
front of the annual stockholder's meet-
ing. He stated, "The only answer now is
a boycott of Coke and we are launching
one in time for Passover.
"It is important," Klein continues, "to
remind people that Jews of Arab coun-
tries had their wealth and possessions
stolen!'

The Challenge
Indeed, the House of Representatives on
April 1, 2008, adopted House Resolution
158 officially recognizing the refugee
status and plight of Jews expelled from
Arab countries!'
Lewin says, "It is now more than 13
years after Coca-Cola callously rejected
the Bigios' personal plea made to
the corporate officers in Atlanta and
embarked on its major capital invest-
ment that took and exploited the Bigios'
property in Egypt. The time has come
for Coca-Cola to meet a minimal stan-
dard of decency and justice!'
Jewish leaders also want to see
good faith negotiations. Abraham
Foxman, national director of the Anti-
Defamation League, states, "It's about
time that the Bigio matter be resolved,
in good faith, either by negotiation or
speedy litigation."
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive
vice chairman of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations, added, "When the gov-
ernment of Egypt originally seized this
property, that was clearly wrong. The
fact that Coke joined in needs to be
taken into account. It is not realistic to
give back the property, but it is realistic
to provide fair compensation to the
Bigios."
Hoenlein emphasized, "The very
essence of the word 'compensation'
means it must be a fair amount."
Despite numerous attempts by this
reporter to pose questions or obtain
specific answers, Coca-Cola would not
respond, with the corporate spokesman's
office asserting it was short-staffed and
busy preparing for the annual meeting.

But the company did e-mail this report-
er a statement: "We are sensitive to
the plight of individuals who have lost
property through the actions of others
in various countries around the world.
We understand their desire for a fair
and open hearing of their claims. In this
case, The Coca-Cola Company has never
had, and currently does not have, any
ownership interest in the property at
issue in the litigation. Misr, an Egyptian
state-owned insurance company, owns
the property."
The company added that it now uses
the property only for "non-critical stor-
age, repair and administrative func-
tions."
But those who support the Bigios say
they will press on both seeking justice
and encouraging a Jewish-led boycott of
Coke products. ❑

Edwin Black is•the award-winning and New
York Times bestselling author of IBM and the

Holocaust as well as award-winning investi-

gations of the relationships between General
Motors, Ford Motor Co, Carnegie Institution
and the Rockefeller Foundation with Nazi

genocide. This article is adapted from The
Cutting Edge, www.thecuttingedgenews.com ,

where the full story can be read.

Answering
Israel's Critics

The Charge
Mahmoud Al-Zahar, foreign minister
of the Hamas government in Gaza,
last week declared on an American
newspaper's editorial page that "the
foundational crime at the core of the
Jewish state [was] the violent expul-
sion from our lands and villages that
made us refugees."

The Answer
Al-Zahar's statement displays his
rejectionism. History reveals that
there would have been no Palestinian
refugees if they and the Arab states
would have, instead of going to war
to annihilate the Jews, abided by the
1947 U.N. resolution to create both a
Palestinian Arab and a Jewish state
out of the British Mandate.

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We Provide Loans.
We Promise Dignity.

(c) Jewish Renaissance Media, April 24, 2008

Jsh
Federation

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