NY Court sends 1st terror financing case to trial

Proceedings will give an unprecedented glimpse into how Hamas was funded over the past 10 years.

Palestinian children celebrate Hamas founding 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
Palestinian children celebrate Hamas founding 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
United States Eastern District of New York Judge Nina Gershon sent to trial late Wednesday a blockbuster terror financing case against major Jordanian financial institution Arab Bank – the first such case in US history.
In addition to setting major new binding precedents, the historic case could have a “meaningful impact on banks” that finance terror groups “for profit because they are indifferent [and treat these groups as] just another customer and don’t care,” said lead litigator Gary Osen.
“It will increase the risk for funding groups like Hamas and al-Qaida” and may change the conduct of “institutions and banks” that do business in “gray areas,” he continued.
Allegations involve the transfer of large funds to Hamas leadership, institutions and families of Hamas prisoners and “martyr”-suicide bombers via Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah’s al-Shahid Foundation.
Arab Bank had tried summary judgment, a last-ditch legal procedure, to avoid a trial, but the court largely rejected the motion, removing the last obstacle that was preventing the case from going to trial.
“For nine years, it’s been the stated goal of all of the plaintiffs to have the opportunity to get their day in court,” Osen said. “This is certainly not the end of the process, but it vindicates their right to [justice].”
The lengthy list of attacks involved in the case, reading like a horror reel of the worst terror moments from around 2001 to 2003 include the Sbarro Pizza attack in Jerusalem; the Dolphinarium discotheque attack in Tel Aviv; the multiple suicide bombings on Ben-Yehuda Street in Jerusalem in a single Saturday night in 2002; the Café Moment and Café Hillel bombings in Jerusalem; the Park Hotel Passover Seder bombing in Netanya; and the 2003 bombing at the Sheffield Club in Rishon Lezion, as well as bus bombings in Jerusalem in June and August of that year.
Major judgments have been won against terror entities and third party banks and entities that finance terror, but they have all been by default, meaning the defendants did not attend the trial or denied the court’s jurisdiction.
Default judgments do not set binding precedents to the same extent that a case like this would be able to.
The trial will end the history of default judgments and, most importantly, give an unprecedented and highly documented glimpse into how Hamas and its leaders were funded over the past 10 years.
This is the first case in which a bank has been ready to stand and fight to the end of the legal proceedings.
The court’s decision was handed down orally from the bench and delved deep into the details and legal principles of how much proof is needed to win a counter-terror lawsuit.
Arab Bank succeeded in getting the court to throw out some of the allegations against it, such as aiding and abetting terrorist attacks, but the majority of charges were approved for trial.
According to the decision, noted Osen, the victims’ families must prove at trial that Arab Bank knowingly provided financial services to Hamas in the tens of millions of dollars, and that the 24 attacks listed were a foreseeable consequence of the bank’s conduct.
The lawsuit alleges that Arab Bank laundered Saudi payments to the families of suicide bombers and other funds intended for Palestinian terrorist groups through its Madison Avenue branch in New York City, which is no longer in operation.
The Saudi funds were then rerouted to local branches of Arab Bank in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and paid out to the personal accounts of hundreds of terrorists and their families, as well as Hamas front organizations and other Palestinian terrorist groups.
The lawsuit also seeks damages for openly providing financial services to terrorists through accounts held directly in the name of Hamas and its many front groups.
The complaint describes the scheme by which Arab Bank allegedly administered a comprehensive terrorist “insurance plan” by distributing death and dismemberment benefits to families of suicide bombers and other terrorists.
The first suit filed was Linde v. Arab Bank, brought forth by the widow of an ex-Marine who was killed while securing American diplomats in Gaza, along with several other plaintiffs. Several subsequent lawsuits have been filed.
The victims range from American tourists – such as the Goldstein family, who came to Israel for a family wedding, and the Sokolow family, who came for a vacation – to students studying abroad at Hebrew University and Israeli-American dual citizens who boarded the wrong bus or visited the wrong café.
Osen of Osen LLC is leading the pack and delivered the oral argument, but there are more than half a dozen law firms involved in the cases.
The ATA case, which relates to American victims of terror, involves over 100 families, and the first trial contemplates covering 24 Hamas terror attacks.