Updated 5/1/12 at 7:28 a.m.
A lawsuit filed against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over a cancelled Julio Iglesias concert is on its last legs after a federal judge dismissed the claims against Northern Cyprus last week.
The Grammy Award-winning singer was scheduled to perform at a hotel in Northern Cyprus in late 2010, but cancelled amid pressure from the Republic of Cyprus, which doesn't recognize Northern Cyprus as a separate foreign state. The hotel sued Iglesias' talent agency, International Creative Talent Agency LLC, to recover fees paid to Iglesias in advance, and the talent agency filed a lawsuit of its own against the hotel and the government of Northern Cyprus, claiming the contract was invalid.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed (PDF) the claims against Northern Cyprus on April 24, finding that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case. Noting that the agency has yet to serve the hotel and its parent company, Boasberg gave the agency until May 8 to explain why he shouldn't dismiss the rest of the case.
Iglesias’ talent agency sued Northern Cyprus, hotel owner Voyager Kibris Ltd., and the hotel owner’s parent company, Net Holdings A.S., in August in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The agency claimed that Northern Cyprus officials and the hotel colluded to convince Iglesias to perform, even though it’s illegal to do business with Northern Cyprus under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus.
The status of Northern Cyprus has been a source of tension since the island, a former British colony, gained independence in 1960. Every country except Turkey recognizes the Republic of Cyprus as the island’s only legitimate government, and, following several outbreaks of violence, United Nations peacekeeping troops have maintained a buffer between the two sides of the island.
After Iglesias cancelled the show, Voyager Kibris sued Iglesias’ agency in Florida state court, claiming Iglesias should have to return the $281,739 he was paid in advance. In the D.C. case, the agency’s lawyers claimed that the contract is invalid because of Northern Cyprus’ non-recognized status and also because the three defendants committed fraud by failing to tell Iglesias that the hotel in question allegedly belonged to a "forcibly dispossessed" Greek Cypriot. He would have been breaking Cypriot law had he performed, the complaint alleged.
Iglesias is not a party in the D.C. case or in the Florida litigation, which is still pending.
In the D.C. case, Boasberg found that the court lacked jurisdiction on several fronts. First, he wrote that while federal courts can hear disputes between private parties and foreign states, the talent agency repeatedly claimed that Northern Cyprus isn’t a foreign state. Second, he wrote that there is no diversity jurisdiction because the talent agency never alleged that a sum of more than $75,000 was in dispute.
Finally, Boasberg wrote, while the talent agency claimed violations of the federal Lanham Act, the agency later “abandoned” that argument, so he treated it as conceded. The judge wrote that the agency could file its remaining claims in a state or local court, but warned that he thought a number of the claims “are obviously infirm.”
In an e-mail, a lead attorney for the defendants, David Saltzman of Washington’s Saltzman & Evinch, said that he is “pleased that the court found that ICTA’s frivolous complaint could not even overcome the very first procedural hurdle.”
“Ultimately, this is a cynical lawsuit. The plaintiff sought to use Julio Iglesias’ renown to draw publicity to what the court called a ‘political manifesto’ of a complaint. We fail to see a valid contract suit lurking beneath the plaintiff’s overheated rhetoric,” Saltzman wrote.
In a statement provided by Saltzman, Ahmet Erdengiz, the Washington-based representative for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said that “Iglesias chose not to perform because of bullying from the Greek Cypriot administration who sent his management company a 3-page letter filled with ridiculous accusations and threats.
“This letter is proof that the Greek Cypriots continue to maintain an inhumane embargo against the Turkish Cypriots, seeking to starve us off of the island by choking off all economic activity, even a concert by Julio Iglesias,” he said. “Other international performers from the U.S. and Europe have disregarded the hollow threats of the Greek Cypriot administration and have enjoyably and profitably performed in the TRNC.”
Lead counsel for the agency, Athan Tsimpedes of the Tsimpedes Law Firm in Washington, did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
A previous version of this article misstated the country that Cyprus gained independence from in 1960.