District Court Dismisses RICO Claim Based on Extortion That Was Centered in India

The World in U.S. Courts: Spring 2015 - Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Life Bliss Network v. Sun TV Ltd., U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, January 12, 2015

Plaintiffs are nonprofit corporations organized to promote certain Hindu teachings. They allege that the defendants, including a television station in India, engaged in a plot to extort money from them by threatening to broadcast, and ultimately broadcasting in India and the U.S., a report the plaintiffs allege resulted in a decline in donations to their organizations. The defendants moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, including that RICO should not apply extraterritorially to alleged conduct occurring principally in India.

The District Court agreed that RICO did not apply extraterritorially and, following to some extent Ninth Circuit precedent, evaluated the claims in question by considering the geographic "focus" of the allegation of an illegal RICO "enterprise." The District Court concluded that the focus of the alleged enterprise was India, noting that country was the location for the "bulk of the extortion," the actual payment of funds, the planning of the alleged scheme, the capturing and initial broadcasting of the tape, and the advancement of the alleged scheme. It thus dismissed the claim based on its improper extraterritorial application of RICO.

[Editor's note: The Life Bliss Network case is also discussed under the Personal Jurisdiction section of this report.]

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