Drawing on a treasure trove of bank documents that Israeli authorities seized in February, U.S. lawyers seek $875 million in damages for the families of U.S. victims of terror attacks allegedly facilitated by the New York office of a big Middle Eastern bank.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in New York, accuses Jordan’s Arab Bank of participating in a complex global scheme to bankroll the pro-Palestinian terror group Hamas and of making “insurance” payouts to the families of suicide bombers in Israel.
Mark Werbner, lead attorney for four suicide-bombing victims’ families, said Tuesday, “We have a mountain of evidence that will prove that the bank not only knows about the terror financing but is actively involved and using its New York branch to launder the money.”
At a time when U.S. authorities are waging a hard campaign to shut down the terror money trail, the families of the suicide bombing victims in Israel appear to be ahead of U.S. bank regulators in using Arab Bank’s own records against it. The lawsuit is based on records Israeli authorities uncovered during raids of two Arab Bank offices in Ramallah. U.S. authorities declined to comment.
According to the lawsuit, Hamas — which the Bush administration designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in August 2003 — solicited funds through its Arab Bank account in Beirut. In turn, Arab Bank offices in Israel paid “death benefits” on behalf of at least 200 “fallen martyrs,” as publicized in Arabic-language newspapers.
According to the lawsuit, Arab Bank’s New York branch was employed to convert Hamas contributions from Middle Eastern currencies to dollars and then wire the funds to Arab Bank branches in the West Bank and Gaza.
George Washington University law professor Peter Raven-Hansen, a national security expert and plaintiff’s co-counsel, says bank wire transfers enabled terrorists to work beyond Israeli army roadblocks in Palestinian strongholds.
U.S. law prohibits any interaction with designated terror organizations by U.S. entities, including foreign-owned businesses in the USA.
New York Federal Reserve Bank records show Arab Bank is run by the Shoman Family of Jordan, which owns 12.4% of the stock and has a long record of pro-Palestinian activism. The bank also is 4.6% owned by the Saudi Arabian Finance Ministry.
A June report by the Council of Foreign Relations cited Saudi Arabia as “the most significant source of funds for al-Qaeda” and funding up to 60% of Hamas’ annual budget. It accuses the Saudis of “inattention, denial and half measures” to combat terrorism.
Saudi spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir said, “We’ve repeatedly denied funding any suicide bombers. … We do support the Palestinians. We are proud of that. But suicide bombers, no.”