(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center announced on Wednesday that former US House majority leader Eric Cantor is fighting its attempt to subpoena him in the Bank of China terrorism-financing case The NGO hopes the former Virginia congressman’s testimony will help it prove the bank strong-armed Israel into obstructing a former Israeli government agent’s testimony.
Shurat Hadin represents 22 families of American victims of terrorist attacks that took place in Israel from 2003 to 2008 in a long-standing litigation against the bank.
The Wultz family, also involved in the case, is not involved in the subpoena fight.
On September 11, the NGO had announced that it had subpoenaed Cantor for a September 30 deposition to reveal his possible discussions with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, such as current and former ambassadors to the US Ron Dermer and Michael Oren, about the bank’s alleged obstruction of Israeli witnesses.
According to Shurat Hadin, former Israeli agent Uzi Shaya was ready to testify about the bank’s knowledge that it was serving as a conduit for terrorism financing, but Israel, which had supported the case for years, reversed itself and, in July, successfully blocked Shaya from testifying after China’s alleged economic and other threats against Israel.
Cantor allegedly has knowledge about China and the bank’s obstruction based on conversations with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials in the summer of 2013.
The opposition, or motion to quash, the subpoena was signed by attorney Eleni M. Roumel from the US House of Representatives Office of General Counsel.
Roumel explained that Cantor would not appear to be deposed since the US Constitution protects him, while acting as part of his office, from being deposed about anything related to the legislative sphere, because the subpoena seeks irrelevant information and because of another doctrine that bars him having to reveal certain information related to his job absent “extraordinary circumstances” that do not exist.
The NGO has said that Cantor’s conversations about the case with the prime minister went beyond his official duties as a US congressman since they related to Israeli policy and a court case in which he had no official role.
The lawsuit is named for Emil Almaliakh, a 32-year-old Israeli killed along with two other victims by a suicide bomber at a bakery in Eilat on January 29, 2007, and was brought by Shurat Hadin charging the bank with facilitating the attack by allowing Islamic Jihad and Hamas to use its wire transfer service via accounts in China.
Meanwhile, Shaya recently sent a letter to the court notifying it that despite the court’s granting Israel’s motion to bar him from testifying, he is still negotiating with Israeli officials to testify about certain issues he believes are not covered by the court’s order.
He requested that the court show patience and give him the opportunity to testify should he reach some sort of agreement with Israel.
Shaya’s testimony, as a unique eyewitness to critical dealings with the bank, was considered a smoking gun for proof that the bank knew it was involved in financing terrorism.
Shaya’s testimony was said to be so significant that it elicited deep concern in China – and therefore in Israel, where the government, despite alleged initial promises to help the families, had turned against them.
Court documents indicate that Shaya worked on national security issues from 1984 to 2007.
They also indicate that from 2004 to 2007 he worked on the state’s national security task force dealing with terrorism financing.
Shaya and the state learned in 2004 that senior Hamas operative Said al-Shurafa, members of his family, Islamic Jihad and Hamas were allegedly laundering millions of dollars through the bank, said the documents.
Shaya and other Israeli officials met with the bank in 2005 providing them with evidence of the laundering and asking the bank to close the problematic accounts, but the bank refused to do so, say the documents.
Discovery in the case had been scheduled to end in October, but will likely be extended pending the fight over subpoenaing Cantor.