Diaz Reus & Targ LLP scored a stunning victory in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last week on behalf of the government of Venezuela, obtaining complete and final dismissal with prejudice of a suit brought by Smith Rocke Ltd., a purported creditor in the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy.

The case is Smith Rocke, Ltd. v. Republica Vliviariana De Venezuela, No. 12 Cv. 7316 (LGS)., 2014 BL 20749 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2014).

Smith Rocke’s Allegation

The suit was predicated on Smith Rocke’s allegation that Venezuelan government agencies had expropriated the company’s entitlement to payments from the Lehman Bros. bankruptcy estate worth more than $400 million. In a comprehensive opinion handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Lorna Schofield, the Court soundly rejected all of the Plaintiff’s expropriation and conversion claims, and dismissed the suit with prejudice.

Case Background

Smith Rocke, a BVI company, is controlled by its Venezuelan shareholders who were previously associated with a Venezuelan bank, Banco Canarias, and another affiliated Venezuelan entity, Credican. Both Banco Canarias and Credican were placed into receivership several years ago by Venezuelan banking regulators. Shortly thereafter, Smith Rocke facilitated an unauthorized “assignment” of the right to receive payments from the defunct entities to Smith Rocke, in an effort to gain control of assets valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Regulators are seeking to recover these assets in order to satisfy depositors and creditors of the failed financial institution.

Outcome of This Case

Once the Venezuelan government learned of the diversion of assets by the Smith Rocke shareholders, they notified the Lehman bankruptcy trustee so that no payments from the Lehman estate would be made to them. That action resulted in the filing of this suit by Smith Rocke against our client. The problem for Smith Rocke, of course, is that these shareholders never had a legitimate legal claim to these assets, and now the court has told them so.

The Diaz Reus legal team on this case included partners Chad Purdie, Gary Davidson, Brant Hadaway, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Diaz, Jr.

See also: Venezuela Sees Lawsuit Dismissed Under FSIA, Rachel Hall, LatinLawyer magazine.


Mario Fabrizio Ormachea, the colonel leading Bolivia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, is being held without bail in Miami, awaiting an October 21 trial period after being arrested in an August 31 Miami FBI sting operation where he attempted to extort $30,000 from former Aerosur Airlines owner and Diaz Reus client, Humberto Roca. (en Español)

Shortly before arriving in Miami, Ormachea contacted Mr. Roca to arrange a meeting where he would offer to dispose of pending Bolivian charges against him and charge someone else, going as far as to characterize Mr. Roca’s prosecution for “illegal enrichment” as a politically motivated scheme hatched by the Bolivian President Evo Morales and Vice President Álvaro García Linera, for which there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Photo credit HACER

Diaz Reus client and former Aerosur Airlines owner Humberto Roca. (Photo: HACER)

Mr. Roca alerted lawyers at Diaz Reus, who advised him to contact the FBI.

The FBI quickly moved in and set up the sting where two meetings between Mr. Roca and Ormachea were audio and video recorded. During the first meeting, Mr. Roca agreed to the terms presented by Ormachea and gave him a $5000 down payment in previously recorded currency provided by the FBI. On the following day, after another $5,000 in recorded currency was accepted by Ormachea in the extortion deal, FBI surveillance teams arrested Ormachea after leaving Roca’s home. (en Español)

Ormachea has pled not guilty to two counts, Foreign Travel in Aid of Racketeering and Attempted Hobbs Act Extortion, for which he could face a maximum of 25 years in jail if found guilty. Meanwhile, new illicit-enrichment charges against Roca that parallel those Ormachea offered to have dismissed have been filed in Boliva on behalf of Aerosur employees.

This is continued proof of Roca’s innocence. His business was taken from him for political reasons, forcing Roca and his family to flee his homeland. We will continue fighting to clear his name and recover the losses from the Bolivian government’s illegal expropriation of Roca’s assets.



Usher RaymondThe ongoing custody battle between R&B singer Usher and his ex-wife, Tameka Foster, highlights the challenges that busy parents face today. It is already hard enough for two parents to manage busy professional schedules and still make time for their children. It is even harder when the parents are divorced. Last Friday, an Atlanta judge rejected Foster’s emergency motion for temporary custody of the couple’s five-year-old son. Foster filed the motion after little Usher was caught in a pool drain while under his aunt’s supervision.

Foster’s lawyer cited her client’s concern that Usher preferred to leave the children with third-party caregivers, over her. Ultimately, Usher’s busy travel schedule was not enough to deprive him of custody. Accidents happen, even when children live with both parents. And when parents, like Usher, have demanding schedules, it is inevitable that third-party caregivers will have to watch the children. The only other option would be for Usher to take his children with him. This would likely have resulted in yet another motion—this time potentially accusing Usher of failing to provide his children with a stable home environment. So, what are busy parents to do?

Parents can set aside emotions and simply communicate.

When it comes to children, parents must set aside their emotions and simply communicate. Whether face-to-face or through trusted intermediaries, the custodial parent should let the other know about scheduled absences. Both parents should know where the children will be while the custodial parent is away. More importantly, both parents should be familiar with the caregivers that will be supervising the children while the custodial parent travels. If possible, the parents may wish to hold a meeting with caregivers to establish a level of comfort and share expectations.

If it is in the best interests of the children, the custodial parent may consider allowing the other parent to supervise the children while he or she is away. This is easier when both parents live in the same city so that the children’s daily routine is not disturbed. If this is not possible, then any visitation schedules that already exist with the non-custodial parent should be kept in place.

No parent wants to leave his or her children for prolonged periods of time. But, in today’s world, many parents are forced to travel for business on a regular basis, or commute over long distances as part of their daily routine. Fortunately, technology helps make those long absences more manageable. Parents are able to chat with their children over video at any hour of the day, from virtually any location. Email and text messaging have also made it easier than ever for parents to keep track of their children and stay involved in their daily activities. While this may not be a substitute for having dinner with your kids, it is a reasonable accommodation.

Parents who travel often—and who are involved in contentious divorce or child custody proceedings—may wish to prepare a detailed travel plan that sets out all of the considerations discussed here. That document, depending on the jurisdiction, can be filed with the court. The goal is to ensure that a busy parent does not lose custody of his or her children simply because they have to make a living.



High-Stakes Divorce: Litigating Against the 800-Pound Gorilla

August 13, 2013 HIgh-Stakes Family Law

On a hot summer day, a swarm of lawyers files into a courtroom at the Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center in downtown Miami. The judge looks up from the bench, a weary expression on his face. This is one of the most contentious cases on his docket, if not the courthouse. There is no love […]

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Florida Appellate Court Reverses Certification of a Class Action Against a Cemetery

August 8, 2013 Class Action

Class actions are usually won or lost at the class certification phase, when the court determines whether the case can in fact proceed on a class basis. In part guided by legislation that has sought to reign in class action abuse, and in part out of a desire to protect their limited resources from the headache of administering class actions, courts have become more particular about what types of claims will be amenable to class relief. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has just entered a ruling that illustrates some of the difficulties with certifying class actions.

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Are trains “safe enough?” Why no seat belts?

August 2, 2013 Commentary

I just returned from a trip to Belgium and France—this just a week or so before the latest spate of train derailments (in Spain first, followed by Switzerland). As lawyers, we are always looking for ways to help clients avoid undue risk and these two catastrophic accidents crystallized thoughts that I had during my trip. […]

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August 1, 2013 China

Have you wondered what it would be like to receive deliveries by drone?  In China, it’s already happening:  A private bakery in Shanghai began using small, four-rotor drones to deliver cakes to its customers. The cake delivery service has been at least temporarily halted pending a regulatory review.  After all, using the airspace over a […]

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You’ll Want to Keep Your Money

July 30, 2013 Anti-Money Laundering

You might be aware that financial institutions are required to report deposits of $10,000 or more by filing what is called a “Currency Transaction Report,” or CTR.  What you might not know is that it is that making multiple deposits of less than $10,000, in multiple accounts, in order to avoid the CTR reporting threshold, […]

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Why wouldn’t a California resident be entitled to prosecute a lawsuit against Florida companies in Florida?

June 27, 2013 Latin America

The question seems simple enough.  But it took an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to find the answer – an answer that will have a significant impact on the rights of U.S. litigants in lawsuits that have some relationship to events occurring abroad. The case began when a California resident booked a family vacation […]

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Miami, Florida. Trade Américas Expo. June 20-21.

June 14, 2013 EVENTS

Latin America has become one of the most dynamic growth regions in the world and a hotbed of commercial opportunity. With a US $4.8 trillion economy, 600 million citizens and a growing middle-class, the countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean represent markets of growing importance for businesses and institutions looking to increase […]

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