India pollution watchdog fines Delhi over toxic smog

Smog levels spike during winter in northern India, when air quality often eclipses the World Health Organization’s safe levels. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2018

India pollution watchdog fines Delhi over toxic smog

  • Each winter, Delhi chokes through haze so extreme that levels of airborne pollutants routinely eclipse safe limits by more than 30 times
  • An estimated 1.1 million Indians die prematurely from air pollution every year

NEW DELHI: India's environmental watchdog has slapped New Delhi's government with a $3.5 million fine for failing to enforce rules to reduce smog in the world's most polluted major city, officials said Tuesday.
The National Green Tribunal penalised the capital administration for its lack of oversight after it emerged some polluting industries were still burning harmful waste in the open.
The tribunal, a national body tasked with ruling on environmental matters, had been hearing a plea from Delhi residents complaining about factories flouting laws on trash fires.
It said the Delhi government needed to instruct the court on how it would proceed with tackling the annual crisis that plagues the capital city of 20 million.
Each winter, Delhi chokes through haze so extreme that levels of airborne pollutants routinely eclipse safe limits by more than 30 times.
An estimated 1.1 million Indians die prematurely from air pollution every year.
The US embassy website in Delhi showed the level of harmful airborne particles hit 290 on Tuesday -- nearly 12 times World Health Organization's safe limits.
Delhi, which has shut down power plants and banned heavy trucks from the city in a bid to curb smog, has accused other states of not playing their part.
In particular, the capital has blamed governments in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana for crop fires that burn every year, sending smoke eastward.
Acrid smoke from these fires mingles with pollutants from cars, factories and construction sites in Delhi to create a lethal and persistent smog cocktail.
Delhi is not the first state to be slapped with a fine by the green watchdog, with West Bengal penalised roughly $700,000 for failure to clear its smoggy skies.
Delhi was among 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of the 20 most polluted cities across the globe this year issued by the WHO.


US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

Updated 28 January 2020

US lawsuit against Qatari emir’s brother to be re-filed in Massachusetts court

  • The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service
  • Two former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people

The attorney for two former contractors suing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of the Emir of Qatar, has asked a Florida Federal Court judge to dismiss their lawsuit so they can re-file the claims before a different Federal court in Massachusetts.

The former contractors alleged they were denied wages and threatened by Sheikh Khaled after they refused his orders to kill two people. The original lawsuit had Sheikh Khaled as the principle defendant but on Nov. 5, 2019 it was expanded to include race car company Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, which Sheikh Khaled owns.

The move was intended to force Sheikh Khaled, who had been avoiding being served, to acknowledge and accept legal service.

Failing to serve a defendant or a defendant’s business assets can result in the lawsuit being thrown out by a judge in the American judicial system.

The expansion of the lawsuit worked. After ignoring the lawsuit for more than seven months, lawyers for both Sheikh Khaled and Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, filed responses. They asked the Federal Court on Jan. 2 this year to dismiss the Pittard/Allende lawsuit, arguing Florida lacked Federal jurisdiction over the case.

According to Bloomberg Markets, Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, although it has an office in Florida.

“After the Pittard case complaint was amended, several individuals bravely stepped forward to share their stories and experiences with the defendants in the Pittard case,” said Rebecca Castaneda, the attorney for security professional Matthew Pittard and paramedic Matthew Allende, who are seeking $33 million in damages.

“In light of the information that they have provided, and the new plaintiffs’ claims and causes of actions against the defendants and others, we have requested that the Pittard case be dismissed from the Middle District of Florida.

“The cases of Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende will be supplemented with additional legal claims and information that has been obtained and re-filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the District of Massachusetts.”

Sheikh Khaled’s attorney, Alejandro Soto, of the Florida law firm Fridman Fels and Soto, PLLC, argued in their motion to dismiss in January that Sheikh Khaled had no legal presence in Florida and that Florida’s Federal courts had no jurisdiction over his actions.

“While the amended complaint invokes Florida law, it otherwise fails to allege any facts supporting Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with the state,” Soto said in his Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“By all accounts — including plaintiffs’— Sheikh Khaled is a citizen of the state of Qatar whose domicile and primary residence — both during the time period alleged in the amended complaint and now — have always been in Qatar.

“Moreover, the amended complaint does not allege a single fact suggesting that any of the alleged conduct giving rise to this case occurred in or arose from Sheikh Khaled’s contacts with Florida. Indeed, the only alleged connection that Florida has with this case is plaintiff Matthew Pittard’s alleged residence in it.”

Attorneys for Al-Anabi Racing LLC, Armando Rosquete and Javier A. Reyes of the Bell Rosquete Reyes Esteban, PLLC law firm, argued that Sheikh Khaled was not employed by Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC and claimed Florida lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Contrary to this settled jurisdictional jurisprudence, plaintiffs failed to plead any facts to establish personal jurisdiction or even provide a factual framework under which this court could analyse personal jurisdiction,” Reyes and Rosquete said in their Jan. 2 dismissal demand.

“Indeed, other than an unsupported conclusory allegation in a single paragraph, plaintiffs include no jurisdictional facts that connect Al-Anabi to Florida. Plaintiffs do not allege that they were injured in Florida, nor do they allege any facts regarding Al-Anabi’s contacts with the state.

“The amended complaint is devoid of facts that could — even when analysed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs — show that the purported injury or other conduct alleged even occurred in Florida,” Reyes and Rosquete added.

Attorneys Reyes, Rosquete and Soto all failed to respond to repeated inquiries for comment on their dismissal filings.

Pittard and Allende alleged in the lawsuit, originally filed on July 23, 2019 before Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber, that Sheikh Khaled ordered them to kill two individuals who posted negative and embarrassing comments about the sheikh on social media.

According to Castaneda, Sheikh Khaled ordered the killing of a Los Angeles-based drug dealer who was trying to blackmail the sheikh with claims he had compromising photos and videos of the sheikh.

“We don’t know the veracity of the drug dealer’s claims, but the sheikh took them seriously and he wanted Pittard and Allende to kill the blackmailer,” Castaneda said.

In another case, Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled allegedly ordered the two security contractors to murder a Moroccan woman who was a friend of the sheikh’s wife. Castaneda said Sheikh Khaled feared the woman was feeding embarrassing information about him to a Saudi national at a time when his brother, Emir Al-Thani, and Qatar were in an international row with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries.

Pittard and Allende allege they were threatened at gunpoint by an angry Sheikh Khaled when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder the two individuals he suspected had sullied his social reputation. The lawsuit claims Sheikh Khaled's threats against Pittard and Allende continued to escalate.