A Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a high-profile case that exposed the dark underside of Venezuelan governmental corruption, on technical grounds. The action, which has been previously reported on this blog*, was a case filed by Venezuelan businessman Tomás Vazquez Estrella, against two individuals accused of embezzling, and transferring, funds from his company, to their control, in Miami. The cause of action is corporate theft, perpetrated by an employee, with the assistance of a confederate.
There has been a great deal of public interest in the related criminal case, where a Venezuelan who sought to extort money from Vazquez, to pay a government official, was convicted, and served time in a US Federal Prison for his crime. The case has served as a reminder that Venezuela now ranks as the worst country in the Western Hemisphere for official corruption, having surpassed the previous leader, the Republic of Haiti, which many observers now consider a failed state.
The lawsuit was dismissed, not on the legal merits, but purely on procedural grounds, the Court holding that Florida was not the proper forum to bring the action, and that there were proper alternatives**. This is known as Forum Non-Conviens, or inconvenient forum. The Circuit Judge concluded, as a matter of law, that:
(1) There is an adequate alternative forum, namely the courts of Venezuela, which possess jurisdiction over the case.
(2) Both public and private factors favor Venezuela. Discovery would have to be taken in Venezuela, and Venezuelan law would have to be applied in any Florida case. The Court mentioned that there are over one hundred potential witnesses, most of whom reside in Venezuela. There apparently is already an ongoing case in Venezuela.
(3) Suit can be brought in Venezuela without inconvenience or prejudice to the parties.
Unfortunately for the plaintiff, he cannot now return to Venezuela, to litigate the case, as a purely politically-motivated criminal indictment has been reportedly brought against him there. His business was arbitrarily confiscated by the Venezuelan government, without cause, and in violation of his rights.
Finally, anyone who thinks that the rule of law exists in the courts of Venezuela today has not paid attention to the court rulings since 1999, when Hugo Chavez' government began to order the judges to follow their orders, and not the law. There is not, nor will there be, any justice in Venezuela, so long as the present regime remains in office. Unless you are an ally of the present government, you will never prevail in a Venezuelan court, even if the law is on your side.
Sr. Vazquez; the Miami court, employing the strict letter of the law, has denied you any chance of recovering your losses from the defendants, Moisés Wahnon Mahman, and Leonor Sarmiento Camperos, who have reportedly invested the money Sarmiento embezzled in Miami-Dade County. has justice been served ? I am afraid not.
*Victim of $100m Venezuelan Fraud seeks relief in Miami Court
** Order Granting Defendant Moisés Wahnon Maman's and Leonor Sarmiento Camperos' Motion to Dismiss, based on Forum Non-Conviens. Readers who wish to view the complete text of the Order can find in in the Official Records of Miami-Dade County at ORB 28773, Page 2765. Go to the Miami-Dade Clerk of Court Online Services website, and select "Official Records" for access.