Case of the Day: African Growth Corp. v. Angola

The case of the day is African Growth Corp. v. Republic of Angola (D.D.C. 2018). The plaintiff was a US company in the real estate business in Luanda, Angola’s capital. Its claim was that Gen. Antonio Andrade and his son, Capt. Miguel Kenehele, with their “heavily-armed security detail,” had wrongfully seized and occupied some of its properties. The plaintiff couldn’t get relief in the Angolan courts, because the government—through Gen. Andrade’s daughter, State Prosecutor Natasha Andrade Santos—refused to enforce the Angolan courts’ orders in favor of the plaintiff. In the old days, this would have been a case for novel disseisin. But these days, the case took the form of a lawsuit in the US District Court. The individual defendants failed to answer, and AGC sought a default judgment.

For some reason, the plaintiff sought to serve the individual defendants by service on the Angolan minister of foreign affairs, as though service were governed by the FSIA. But of course foreign officials are not the foreign state, or agencies or instrumentalities of the foreign state. So the service was improper and the court correctly denied the plaintiff’s motion for default judgment.

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