Office for Cereals of Tunisia v Socit Bec Frres

CourtCourt of Cassation (France)
Date04 janvier 1995
France, Court of Cassation (First Civil Chamber).

(Grgoire, President; Lemontey, Rapporteur, Le Foyer de Costil, Advocate-General)

Office for Cereals of Tunisia
Socit Bec Frres

State immunity Immunity from jurisdiction State-controlled body Whether entitled to assert immunity from jurisdiction of municipal courts Conditions for immunity

State responsibility Debts State corporations Whether endowed with independent legal personality Whether liable for debts incurred by controlling State

Economics, trade and finance State corporations Legal status Whether corporation with independent legal personality liable for debts contracted by controlling State The law of France

Summary:The facts:A French company, Bee Frres, was a creditor of the Tunisian State and was authorized in 1992 to obtain the conservatory attachment of a cargo of wheat belonging to the Office for Cereals of Tunisia. On appeal, the Court of Appeal of Rouen refused to vacate the attachment, holding that the Office for Cereals was to be regarded as an emanation of the Tunisian State since its President and board of management were appointed by the Government, and the cargo at issue was allocated for supplies to the population within the framework of the Government's monopoly over external trade in cereals. The Office for Cereals appealed.

Held:The appeal was allowed and the attachment was vacated.

Supervision and even control by a State over a legal body, exercised in particular through its managers, as well as the fact that it performed a devolved public service mission, were not sufficient to require that body to be considered as an emanation of the State implying that it was to be assimilated to the State.

The following is the text of the judgment of the Court:

On the first ground of appeal

The Court has considered Article 2092 of the Civil Code together with Article 48 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The general lien created by the first of those provisions for the benefit of creditors only covers assets owned by the debtor.

The French company Bee Frres is a creditor of the Tunisian State. Bee Frres was authorized on 24 August 1992 to obtain the conservatory attachment of a cargo of wheat belonging to the Office for Cereals of Tunisia.

The judgment under appeal refused to order the vacation of that attachment. The ground relied upon was that the Office for Cereals, even if it was endowed with its own legal personality as an industrial and commercial public undertaking subject to the...

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