United States of America v. $506,069.09 Seized from First Merit Bank, Reality Savings Acct #901560000417, et al.,
Opinion and Order dismissing remaining claims of Dr. Zaidi and PMNO to the seized assets for want of prosecution. Judge Dan A. Polster(C,KA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
$506,069.69 SEIZED FROM FIRST
MERIT BANK, REALITY SAVINGS
ACCOUNT #901560000417, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:14 CV 23
JUDGE DAN AARON POLSTER
OPINION AND ORDER
This civil in rem forfeiture action has been pending since January 6, 2014. Suffice it to
say that the history of this case has been repeatedly set forth in various court orders addressing
substantive and non-substantive questions. (See Doc ##: 52, 60, 65, 66, 69, 70.) The litigation
has culminated, after 17 months, in two orders directing Dr. Syed J. Akhtar-Zaidi to return to the
United States no later than June 8, 2015 if he wishes to challenge the forfeiture of seized assets,
unless he makes a substantial showing that he will return after a further short delay.1 (Doc ##:
Rather than respond to this simple, straight forward topic, counsel has taken this
opportunity to re-argue the Court’s rulings on Claimant Erum Zaidi’s motion to dismiss as well
as Claimants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and to educate the Court on the fugitive
Dr. Zaidi flew to Pakistan in December 2013, at a time when several of his assets had been
seized and with knowledge that he was the target of a criminal investigation. That criminal
investigation culminated in the filing of a multiple-count indictment.
disentitlement doctrine which is irrelevant to this civil case. (See Doc #: 71.) With regard to Dr.
Zaidi’s health, counsel merely states that Dr. Zaidi’s health problems “have been long known to
the plaintiff and the court.” (Id. at 3.) What this Court knows is that Dr. Zaidi had a heart attack
in 2007 which resulted in the placement of two stents, and that a Pakistani doctor stated in July
2014, in a document that is neither notarized nor authenticated, that Dr. Zaidi cannot handle the
inherent “stress” of plane travel which is strictly forbidden in the “foreseeable future.” (Doc #:
41-2, at 1.) That was nearly a year ago.
At the March 6, 2015 teleconference, the Court asked Dr. Zaidi what medications he was
taking for his heart condition, to which he responded aspirin and beta blockers – medications that
millions of Americans take daily and do not cause them any problems with air travel. The Court
offered to free up enough of the seized assets to pay for any medical procedure that would
improve Dr. Zaidi’s health and enable him to come to the United States. His response brief does
not mention, let alone address, any of this.
The bottom line is that the Court will not permit these Claimants to litigate their claims to
the seized assets in absentia and without discovery. As early as the March 10, 2014 telephonic
pretrial conference, the Court stressed the requirement that the Claimants could not proceed with
their claims in absentia. In teleconferences postdating March 10, 2014, the issue of Dr. Zaidi’s
return has been raised, to no avail. By failing to return to the United States within the reasonable
time period set by the Court, or otherwise advising the Court of when he will return, Dr. Zaidi
simply thwarts the judicial proceedings.
The Court has reviewed the factors a court must consider when dismissing claims for
want of prosecution. Knoll v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 176 F.3d 359, 363 (6th Cir. 1999). For
reasons articulated in the Government’s response brief, the Court finds that Dr. Zaidi has
demonstrated willful disregard for these proceedings; Claimants’ efforts to litigate this case
without allowing the Government to conduct discovery is unfairly prejudicial to the
Government; Claimants have all been given more than fair notice that the Court would dismiss
their claims absent discovery; and, as it is clear that the Zaidis have no intention of returning to
the United States to litigate their claims, dismissal is the only sanction the Court can exercise
other than staying the case forever – something the Court will not do.
For these reasons, the Court dismisses the remaining claims of Dr. Zaidi and PMNO to
the seized assets for want of prosecution.2
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Dan A. Polster June 15, 2015
Dan Aaron Polster
United States District Judge
On March 6, 2015, the Court dismissed the claim of Erum Zaidi (who has no health
concerns) to the seized assets for failure to appear for her deposition and the Case Management
Conference (despite granting her numerous extensions of time to make travel arrangements). (See
Doc #: 66, at 1; Doc #: 65, at 2.)
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