Last week it was announced that January 13 would be the starting date for
Courtney Linde et al v. Arab Bank, the first terror-finance case against a bank
to go to trial in US history.
The allegations, which have been featured
on CBS News’s Sunday Morning program, involve the massive transfer of funds to
Hamas leaders and institutions, as well as to the families of imprisoned Hamas
members and suicide bombers, via Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah’s al-Shahid
Jordan-based Arab Bank has denied the allegations.
aside from making exciting headlines in the media, how can the plaintiffs
actually prove their case in a court of law? This is especially difficult since
the plaintiffs need to prove that the bank aided in transferring the alleged
terror-related funds knowingly, something that is always hard to prove regarding
Some crimes can be solved with DNA, but proving a bank was not
an unthinking conduit for fund transfers to terrorists, but rather a knowing
conspirator, requires the connection of a significant number of dots on
innumerable documents and, for international terror networks, in multiple
The lead plaintiffs’ counsel, Gary Osen, recently explained
some of the key evidence against the bank, cutting the roadmap for terror
financing broadly into two categories: financing that the bank allegedly handled
directly for a terror group like Hamas, and financing that the bank handled for
“charities” that were fronts or major donors for Hamas, as well as for other
groups and the families of suicide bombers.
First, Osen said he will
present evidence that Arab Bank provided banking services by receiving funds
into accounts maintained for the benefit of Hamas in its Beirut, Lebanon and
Gaza Strip branches. He said that Hamas’s website and advertisements throughout
the Middle East had told supporters to send contributions for the group to Arab
Bank’s Gaza branch.
For example, a court opinion indicates that the bank
admitted in response to questions by the plaintiffs that it maintained 11 bank
accounts for terrorists although it claims it did not know at the time that the
account holders were terrorists.
Osen’s plan is to attack the bank’s plea
of ignorance by trying to show that the account holders and others connected to
the accounts had “terrorist” written on them too prominently for the bank to
Pretrial evidence presented to the court by Osen shows that
in 1998, Osama Hamdan, an alleged Hamas leader and designated by the US as being
a terrorist since 2003, opened an account at the bank’s El-Mazra branch in
Beirut, which he maintained until the account was closed in 2004. The evidence
also shows that transfers were made to and from that account throughout 1998-
Next, Osen will show the court evidence of a 2002 transfer made by
Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, designated by the US as being a terrorist since
1995, and Salah Shehadeh, commander of Hamas’s military wing, Izzadin Kassam,
until he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2002.
Evidence the court
cites also shows that the bank processed a payment to Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s
prime minister for the Gaza Strip.
In addition, plaintiffs have offered
evidence that three wire transfers in 2000 were made from one of its Beirut
accounts to Harakat al-Mukawama al- Islamiya, otherwise known as the “Islamic
Resistance” or Hamas. The court noted that the bank has said the three transfers
were an aberration, but they were signed off by a senior bank
Second, Osen said he will present evidence that Arab Bank
maintained accounts and solicited funds for charitable groups and individual
supporters of Hamas that it knew had connections to or were fronts for terror
groups and suicide bombers.
He said he will show that an entire financial
infrastructure built to support the transfer of $5,316.06 from a group known as
the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada Al Quds to each family of
designated Palestinian “martyrs” and those wounded or sent to prison in
connection with terror operations. The funds paid for this purpose through the
bank’s branches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip totaled in the millions of
dollars, Osen said.
The plaintiffs have submitted a 1,485-page Saudi
Committee spreadsheet listing names of martyrs and their beneficiaries, and the
causes of death. At least eight martyrs whose beneficiaries received payment,
according to the list, died in the commission of “martyrdom
They eight include Khatem Shweiki, who in November 2001
opened fire with an M16 in Jerusalem, killing two.
Numerous “martyrs” are
listed as having died by “assassination” – also listed as the cause of death on
the Saudi Committee webpage, which, along with other documents, shows the bank’s
transfer of $5,316.05 to the father of Izz al-Din al-Masri, who carried out the
Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August 2001, in which 130 people were
killed or wounded, Osen said.
Other evidence submitted by the plaintiffs
links the bank and the Saudi Committee to six individual terrorists, including
Ahmed al-Muqadama, a Hamas founder, as well as Izzadin Kassam leader Ahmed
Jabari, who was killed by the IDF in November 2012.
A court document
indicates that there is evidence that an account belonging to another group, the
Nablus Zakat Committee, was linked with Hamas, and that Arab Bank facilitated a
2004 wire transfer to the Al- Salah Society, a charitable organization
affiliated with Hamas. The society was designated a terrorist entity by the US
in August 2007. The Palestinian Monetary Authority froze its funds in
According to a court document, the Ramallah Zakat Committee,
another account holder at the bank, received a transfer from Interpal in 2004,
the year after the US classified Interpal a terror entity. The bank’s programs
for detecting links to terrorism did not stop the transfer, said the court, and
it appears to have been approved by an Arab Bank employee.
points are Osen’s road map, and unveiling in detail the underworld of terror
financing on the public stage may be even more riveting than the trial itself.