Judge Dorian K. Damoorgian (Melanie Bell)
Mohammad Al-Saleh, a Jordanian businessman who won a $28.8 million judgment against energy tycoon Harry Sargeant III of Gulfstream, won’t be able to use Florida courts to collect, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday.
Al-Saleh was a partner with Sargeant and Dominican Republic entrepreneur Mustafa Anu-Naba’a on fuel supply contracts for U.S. troops in Iraq during the rampup and height of hostilities during the Bush administration.
Al-Saleh, a brother-in-law of the king of Jordan, was responsible for securing transshipment rights through Jordan to the Iraqi border before he was forced out of the company.
He sued on fraud claims and prevailed in a 2011 trial in the Palm Beach Circuit Court. After the verdict was affirmed on appeal last May, Al-Saleh brought a creditor’s suit.
Circuit Judge Robin Rosenberg ordered the debtors—Sargeant and Anu-Naba’a—to turn over stock certificates showing their ownership of foreign companies to their attorney.
Fourth District Chief Judge Dorian Damoorgian said Rosenberg erred because Florida law doesn’t apply extraterritorially.
Raoul Cantero of White & Case in Miami, the attorney for Sargeant and Anu-Naba’a, argued Al-Saleh would have to proceed in foreign jurisdictions because the assets were abroad—in the Bahamas, Netherlands, Jordan, Isle of Man and Dominican Republic.
Damoorigian cited Paciocco v. Young, Stern & Tannenbaum, a 1985 Third District decision that concluded Florida courts lack jurisdiction “over notes secured by mortgages on real property located in a foreign state.”
He also cited a policy issue, saying, “Allowing trial courts to compel judgment debtors to bring out-of-state assets into Florida would effectively eviscerate the domestication of foreign judgment statutes.”
Cantero’s co-counsel, David Draigh of White & Case in Miami, said he was pleased with the opinion but couldn’t comment further.
Edward H. Davis of Astigarraga Davis Mullins & Grossman in Miami, Al-Saleh’s appellate attorney, was unable to comment.