Lawfare 362

International banks that facilitate the financing of terrorism are being sued with satisfying results, according to this heartening report:

In a recent ruling that sent shockwaves through the Western financial world, the New York District Court revealed that Clearstream, a Luxembourg subsidiary of Deutsche Borse bank, is being sued by 1,000 victims of international terror attacks as part of a larger lawsuit against Iran.

Plaintiffs in the suit, known as Peterson vs. Iran, are suing Tehran over its alleged funding of Islamic Jihad, the Hezbollah paramilitary wing that perpetrated the 1983 US Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. They allege that Clearstream, one of the world’s largest international securities depositories settling cross-border transactions, helped Iran move millions of dollars in frozen assets out of the US banking system. …

The lawsuit, brought under US anti-terror legislation, is one of a string of ongoing actions that legal experts say are exposing the role played by international banks in helping finance terror.

One of the largest and most influential of the antiterror funding suits is Almog vs. Arab Bank, filed by survivors and family members of victims of attacks by groups including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

While usually only US citizens can file complaints in US courts, in the case of Arab Bank the judge has allowed other nationals – including citizens from Israel, Russia, Ukraine and France – to join.

Arab Bank, which is headquartered in Amman, is accused of aiding and abetting terrorist acts by providing extensive banking services for several organizations that gave money to suicide bombers’ families.

Among those organizations is the Saudi Committee, which is alleged to have routed over $100 million raised in a Saudi-government-supported campaign to Palestinian terror groups.

According to Prof. Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on Islamic movements who has been involved in 18 of the terror-funding lawsuits, Arab Bank acted as a “pipeline” that channeled funds to Gaza bank accounts. … [and] set up an administrative process whereby the relatives of suicide bombers had to receive official certification of their deceased family member’s “martyr” status before receiving funds.

According to attorney Richard D. Heideman – whose Washington firm Heideman Nudelman and Kalik, PC, represents American terror victims in several civil actions – although Arab Bank filed a motion to dismiss the suit in the US District Court of New York, the judge overruled that in a published opinion and has allowed the case to proceed. It is expected to go to trial.

And also according to Heideman, the German Commerzbank is being sued for “providing financial services to Hezbollah through various front organizations”. That case too is expected to go to trial.

Whatever the final outcome of these civil suits in terms of damages settlements for terror victims and their families, lawyers and regional experts agree they are raising public awareness about the global reach of terror funding, as well as making it increasingly harder for Hamas and Hezbollah to route funding through international banks.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv-based NGO the Israel Law Center, who is involved in a number of civil cases against terror sponsors in the US courts, agrees with Heideman that “terror funding” lawsuits are effective. … She also pointed to several UK banks, including Barclays and Lloyds TSB, which had provided accounts to charities that were giving money to terror groups.

Those accounts were closed,” Darshan-Leitner said. “As a result of the lawsuits, banks stopped providing financial services to areas where terror groups work, like Gaza. So the suits have also affected Hamas’s government operations there because Hamas now can’t get money for its activities.”

Paz believes the Arab Bank action is so far the most effective of the civil lawsuits, in terms of its impact on terror funding. “One of the most successful fights against global Jihad has definitely been in the world of finance,” he said. “And one of the results is that terror groups have become more cautious about their financial activity… Arab Bank is in a panic… It is a very large private bank in the Arab world, and it is a very important basis of the Jordanian economy. … If Arab Bank collapses, it will hurt Jordan and the West Bank.”

The lawsuit against Arab Bank has forced it to freeze the accounts of the Saudi Committee, and is frustrating other Gulf states’ efforts to fund and reward terrorist activity.

It tried moving its “Hamas financial operations” to China, “where Hamas is not considered a terror group”, but “China’s policy on Hamas does not prevent the Bank of China being sued in the US courts under US antiterror legislation” and –

A  judge in the Supreme Court of the State of New York recently gave the green light to a lawsuit against the Bank of China by 84 victims of Hamas rocket attacks.

Because it has a branch in New York, the Bank of China must act according to US rules on terror funding.  And so  –

China has closed Hamas’s account. 

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner’s firm, Shurat HaDin, is also suing insurance companies:

Shurat HaDin aims to prevent blockade breach by bringing lawsuits in the US against companies offering services to participating ships. …

In letters to maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies, Shurat HaDin … has warned that any companies that provide services that assist in the breach of the Israeli blockade on Gaza will be sued in the United States for aiding the Hamas terrorist organization.

Their warnings to insurance companies kept ships from participating in the last flotilla that was planned to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

The group has also sent letters to 30 of the top maritime insurance companies in the world announcing their intent to sue if they provide insurance to ships participating in the flotilla. “Every boat that travels from any country’s seaports or marinas needs to have maritime insurance,” explained Darshan-Leitner. “Without insurance, a ship is not permitted to set sail. Yet, the maritime insurance companies insuring the boats utilized by the Gaza Flotilla surely have no idea that the passenger boats that they are indemnifying are being used by the organizers to run the coastal blockade, violently challenge the IDF and smuggle weapons into Gaza. No legitimate insurance company nor its shareholders would reasonably agree to insure an expedition like that. We have begun to send letters placing the maritime insurance companies on notice concerning the Gaza Flotilla, and warning them that if they provide insurance … they themselves will be legally liable for any future terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas.”

And they are thinking of more ways to hamper sea-borne support for terrorists by using the law:

Shurat HaDin … recently approached mobile satellite services company Inmarsat– the only company that provides communications and navigations services to ships that sail in the region – requesting that they refuse to provide their services to ships participating in the flotilla. “We informed them that if they do so, they will be in violation of the American Neutrality Act, which prohibits aiding a group in their struggle against the military of an ally country,” said Darshan-Leitner. “Since Imarsat has offices in the US, the law binds them.The group has already received assurances from the world’s largest maritime insurance company, Lloyd’s, that they would not insure ships participating in the flotilla, as well as an agreement from the International Union of Marine Insurance that they would send their requests to all their members.


Spurred by success, Shurat HaDin are now threatening to sue Columbia University if they host Iran’s nasty President Ahmadinejad, according to this report in Commentary-contentions:

Columbia University has hosted Iranian President Ahmadinejad in years past, but the upcoming banquet it’s reportedly planning for the universally-loathed leader might not go as smoothly this time around.

An Israeli law center is vowing to hit Columbia University with massive lawsuits if it goes ahead with the banquet, according to a letter the legal group sent to university president Lee Bollinger …

The letter (read it here in full) declared and warned that –

Hosting Ahmadinejad at a banquet is not merely morally repulsive: it is illegal and will expose Columbia University and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by Iranian-sponsored terrorism.

Iran is officially designated under U.S. law as a state-sponsor of terrorism, as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and as a perpetrator of human rights abuses. Ahmadinejad is Iran’s chief executive and personally directs Iran’s terrorist and nuclear proliferation activities and human rights abuse. …

The planned Columbia University event for Ahmadinejad would constitute the type of seemingly innocuous material support that would render both Columbia University and you personally criminally and civilly liable notwithstanding any putative First Amendment claims.

Shurat HaDin demanded that the University cancel the event. “Otherwise, the group says it will ‘feel a moral obligation to take all measures permitted to ensure that the laws are enforced’.”

We wait to know if the event will be cancelled, and if it isn’t what will follow. We believe Shurat HaDin will carry out its threat, and we raise a brimming glass to everyone in that enterprising firm.