Exclusive: Austrian bank shuts terror account of pro-BDS Austrian-Arab center

By
June 8, 2016 02:17

Spokesman for New York-based investment firm confirms closure of account belonging to OKAZ, which hosted a Palestinian terrorist in Vienna in April.

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Leila Khaled

PFPL plane hijacker Leila Khaled in South Africa. (photo credit:AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

BERLIN – Austrian financial giant Bawag closed the bank account of Vienna’s Austrian-Arab cultural center (OKAZ), which hosted a Palestinian terrorist in Vienna in April.

A spokesman for NY-based investment firm Cerberus Capital Management – the principal owner of the Bawag bank – told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday about the decision.

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OKAZ is also part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state.

Georgia Schütz, the spokeswoman for the bank’s headquarters in Vienna, wrote the Post on Wednesday, saying: ”We can confirm that there are no customer relationships with OKAZ anymore. Due to Austrian banking secrecy we are not able to disclose any reasons and background information.”

OKAZ held an event in April with convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The EU and the US both classify the group as a terrorist organization. Khaled hijacked American TWA flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she hijacked EL AL flight 219.

When asked about OKAZ’s finances, a Bawag representative previously said that the bank follows all anti-terrorism laws.

Cerberus owns 52 percent of the bank, and GoldenTree Asset Management – also located in New York City – has a 40% stake in Bawag.

Mary Beth Grover, a Golden- Tree spokeswoman, declined to comment on the issue.

The Post first exposed OKAZ in April as part of its ongoing series spotlighting financial institutions in Europe that provide accounts to pro- BDS organizations, as well as NGOs with jihadist terrorism connections. OKAZ did not immediately respond to a Post query.

When asked why OKAZ lists Bawag account information on its website, Schütz told the Post: “Bawag has no influence over what an organization puts on its website. It is only at the organization’s discretion.”

The Austrian bank Erste Group, which has a New York office, pulled the plug on OKAZ’s account in April. Proposed anti-boycott legislation in New York State may have played a role in the bank’s decision to terminate the account.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine, the sponsor of anti- BDS legislation in the New York State Assembly, told the Post in April that his legislation would “certainly adversely affect those banks.

In a time of crisis that is growing more acute by the day, Americans and New Yorkers want to stand with our strategic, democratic ally Israel, and against hatred peddled by the BDS movement.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Sunday banning state business with companies engaged in BDS.

A spokesman for the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli wrote the Post by email on Tuesday, stating: “The New York State Common Retirement Fund is an active investor in the State of Israel and has made investments of approximately $532 million there. As trustee of the pension fund, Comptroller DiNapoli condemns the BDS movement against Israel, which may put the fund’s investments at risk. He traveled to Israel in November where he met with several of the entities in which the fund is invested with and explored other opportunities.”

Last week, PayPal shut down the BDS France NGO’s account. In May, the French financial institution Credit Mutuel severed its account with the BDS France group.

Commerzbank, Baden Wuttembergische Bank (BW-Bank) in Stuttgart, Sparkasse savings banks and Deutsche Postbank provide accounts to scores of Israel-boycott groups in Germany.

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