The snaky path of how terrorists raise money

The ‘Post’ breaks down the first terror financing trial against a bank in US history.

Arab bank in jordan 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Arab bank in jordan 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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 Foundation.
Jordan-based Arab Bank has denied the allegations.
But 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 finance.
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 countries.
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 have missed.
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- 2004.
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 official.
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 operations.”
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 2003.
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.
These key 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.