Ex-dictator files lawsuit claiming ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops II’ damaged his reputation
Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has a message for the publishers of a popular video game that features a mission to capture him: You owe me money.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, the 80-year-old once known as one of Latin America’s most powerful strongmen accused the Activision Blizzard video game company of harming his reputation with “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”
Noriega — convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and killing political opponents — is serving out a prison sentence in Panama, where he was extradited in 2011.
He argues in the lawsuit that his portrayal “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” in the 2012 video game damaged his reputation. The company used his image and name in order to make make money, the lawsuit says, therefore he’s entitled to a share of the profits.
“Plaintiff was portrayed as an antagonist as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff’s image and likeness,” the lawsuit says.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2012, the company said “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” had netted more than $1 billion in sales worldwide in its first months on the market.
The video game includes historical footage and several real-life characters in Cold War scenarios, including Oliver North.
But while North did his own voice over for the game and acted as an adviser, Noriega said in Tuesday’s lawsuit that he wasn’t consulted — or compensated — for the use of his likeness.
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus is also depicted in a fictional scenario in the game as the secretary of defense in 2025.
Activision said in a 2012 statement that “including Gen. Petraeus and other real-life figures was strictly a creative decision made many months ago when the story line was drafted.”
For almost two decades, Noriega was a major player in a country of critical regional importance to the United States because of its location on the Panama Canal, the key strategic and economic waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the narrow isthmus linking the Americas.
Amid growing unrest in Panama, then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of the Central American nation in December 1989, saying Noriega’s rule posed a threat to U.S. lives and property.
Noriega fled his offices and tried to seek sanctuary in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.
He surrendered in January 1990 and was escorted to the United States for civilian trial.
Noriega was indicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. He was accused of having links to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s notorious Medellin cartel and, in the process, amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune.
He was convicted of drug trafficking and other crimes and served nearly two decades in prison.
In 2010, a French court sentenced Noriega to seven years in prison for laundering €2.3 million ($2.9 million) through banks there. He was ordered to pay the money back.
In Panama, where he was convicted of killing political opponents, he has been hospitalized several times since he returned in 2011 to serve out his prison sentence.