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Ezeiruaku v. Bull

United States District Court, District of New Jersey

November 3, 2014

VINCENT O. EZEIRUAKU, doing business as SABA PRODUCTS, Plaintiff,

Vincent O. Ezeiruaku, Pro se, Williamstown, N.J.

For Defendants: Aileen F. Droughton, Esq., Marta N. Kozlowska, Esq., TRAUB LIEBERMAN STRAUS & SHREWSBERRY LLP, Red Bank, N.J.


JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief United States District Judge.


In this action concerning the police seizure of $80, 000 in undisclosed U.S. currency in London's Heathrow International Airport, Defendants the " London Police" [1] and two of its officers, Dan Bull and David March (hereinafter, " Defendants"), move to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Vincent O. Ezeiruaku's (hereinafter, " Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), (3) and (5). [Docket Item 5.]

In his Complaint, Plaintiff generally asserts that Defendants seized his currency in violation of his " federally guaranteed constitutional" rights. [Docket Item 1.] Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint principally on the basis that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § § 1330, 1603, and 1605 (hereinafter, the " FSIA"), provides Defendants, arms of a foreign sovereign, with immunity from this litigation. Moreover, because acts of foreign nationals form the fabric of Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants challenge whether the Court possesses personal jurisdiction over Defendants and, relatedly, question whether this District constitutes a proper venue in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1391. Lastly, Defendants dispute the efficacy of Plaintiff's service of his Complaint by mail, and argue that effective service in this instance requires compliance with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, Feb. 10, 1969, 20 U.S.T. 361.

Plaintiff, relying principally upon the liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings, argues that the nature of this action falls within the commercial activity, expropriation, and tortious activity exceptions to the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign state under 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a).

The principal issue before the Court is whether foreign immunity under the FSIA insulates Defendants from this litigation. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds the Defendants immune, and therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. The Court will accordingly grant Defendants' motion to dismiss on that basis.


A. Factual Background

The facts set forth below are those alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint, which the Court accepts as true for the purposes of the pending motion.[2] Plaintiff alleges that, while traveling through London's International Airport on January 18, 2013, Defendants, officers of the London " Police" force, " discovered" in Plaintiff's possession and " immediately confiscated" $80, 000 in U.S. currency. (Compl. at ¶ ¶ 1-2.) Defendants purportedly failed to communicate the basis for such seizure--whether at the time of the incident or thereafter--but nonetheless retained the funds for in excess of fourteen months. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 3-7.) Defendant David Marsh, however, ultimately found " no link" between the funds and any illegal activities, and therefore represented an intention to return such funds with interest. ( Id. at ¶ 7.) Despite that representation, the sums remitted by Defendants allegedly amounted to " less than the original $80, 000." ( Id. at ¶ 9.)

Plaintiff asserts in his Complaint that this fourteen month seizure " violated his federally guaranteed constitutional rights of due process, " " right to property, " and " civil rights, " because such seizure occurred without reasonable suspicion that the seized currency bore a relationship with illegal activity. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 9-11.) Plaintiff therefore seeks monetary damages for the various business losses allegedly derived from " the deprivation" of Plaintiff's currency. ( Id. at ¶ 9.)

B. Parties' Arguments

Defendants, relying upon the various provisions of Rule 12(b), move for dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint on the following grounds: lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, ineffective service of process, and failure to state a claim. (See generally Defs.' Br.) Defendants principally argue, however, that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action because the FSIA confers immunity upon Defendants, particularly because this action concerns a seizure that occurred in Defendants' " official capacity as instrumentalities of the United Kingdom, a foreign sovereign[.]" (Defs.' Br. at 3-4, 9-10 (citation omitted).) Moreover, because the entire fabric of this litigation concerns events in London, Defendants assert that this action and specifically their conduct lacks any appreciable nexus with New Jersey. ( Id. at 5-8.) Defendants accordingly argue that Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction and/or for improper venue, because " no appropriate venue exists" for Plaintiff's claims. ( Id. at 8.) Lastly, Defendants dispute whether Plaintiff successfully effectuated service of his Complaint. ( Id. at 11-12.) Defendants specifically argue that Plaintiff's ...

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