NGO demands answers from ambassador to China over terror funding case

A former government agent's involvement with the Bank of China, which is being accused of facilitating terror attacks, is in dispute.

MATAN VILNA’I 370 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Not showing any signs of giving in, the anti-terrorism NGO Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center on Saturday night told The Jerusalem Post that it would be demanding to depose Ambassador to China Matan Vilna’i. The claim involves the ongoing controversy of a former government agent’s involvement in a major terror financing case against the Bank of China.
The announcement was almost immediately after the NGO’s announcement late Thursday night that it had subpoenaed former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror to explain why the government would not allow former agent Uzi Shaya to testify against the bank.
In mid-November, Israel filed a motion in a US federal court in Washington to block Shaya from testifying though his testimony was planned to be a major part of a case that terror victims and their families have filed against the bank.
The plaintiffs in the case, who include family members of victims of bombings and rocket attacks that Islamic Jihad and Hamas carried out in 2006 and 2007, have claimed that the Bank of China facilitated the attacks by providing wire transfer services to both terrorist groups.
The group lawsuit is known as the “Almaliakh action” after Emil Almaliakh, an Eilat resident whom a suicide bomber killed in 2007.
Those named in the lawsuit say that the bank has aided and abetted Hamas and Islamic Jihad since 2003, by providing wire transfer services to operatives of the two groups via a bank account in China.
Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, representing 22 of the victims, has accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of “turning his back” on the terror victims by blocking Shaya, who had publicly said he wished to testify, from doing so because of external considerations relating to Israeli-Chinese relations.
Shaya filed a letter in March specifying strict conditions in which he might agree to testify, if permitted by the government.
The NGO’s head, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said that they wanted to depose Vilna’i, in his capacity as Ambassador to China, to expose that the true reasons for the government blocking Shaya from testifying were not national security, but business and other general considerations with China.
She cited an August 15 interview that Vilna’i gave Ma’ariv in which he said that the case was impacting relations with China, that the Chinese were pressuring Israel and that he hoped to move beyond the case.
Relating to whether Shaya can testify or not, in 2008, another government agent, Shlomo Matalon, filed an affidavit in a different but related proceeding in New York, describing exact bank account numbers and fund transfer amounts between Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the bank.
The affidavit states that Matalon was “informed that in April 2005, officials from the Israeli Counter Terrorism Bureau met in China with their counterpart Chinese officials” and told them of the funding transfers for the terror organizations.
The affidavit says that despite this warning to China and the bank in 2005, the terror-related fund transfers continued until at least 2008.
Shaya’s testimony, which Shurat Hadin says Matalon’s affidavit was at least partially based on, was supposed to be a primary source of evidence that could disprove the bank’s claim that it did not have notice of the terror financing activities until it was sued.
Leitner, said that Amidror had previously told her that Shaya would be allowed to testify, and later changed the answer after apparent pressure from China.
In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Beijing pressured Netanyahu to backtrack on a promise to help in the US terror funding lawsuit involving the Chinese bank’s alleged involvement in a 2006 Tel Aviv suicide bombing.