Israeli Terror Victims Win Right to Have Case Against Bank of China Heard in U.S. Court
by Zach Pontz
The families of 20 Israeli terror victims have won a precedent-setting legal decision in the New York State Appellate Division (1st Dept.) in their case against the Bank of China (BOC). The Court affirmed that the civil action brought in 2008 by the Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket attacks and suicide bombings can proceed against the BOC in the United States.
The Appellate Division held that the trial court will apply Israeli law in hearing the case. The defendant had argued that Chinese law should apply as the BOC is headquartered in Beijing. Applying Israeli law, which differs from the Chinese law, would make it easier for the plaintiffs to prove that BOC officials had illegally violated banking regulations and U.S. criminal statutes by carrying out money transfers for Palestinian terror organizations.
The civil action, brought on behalf of the victims and family members of victims of terror attacks perpetrated between 2004 and 2007 in Israel, alleges that, starting in 2003, the BOC executed dozens of wire transfers for terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad totaling several million dollars. These transfers were initiated by the PIJ and Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, were processed through BOC’s branches in the United States and were sent on to a BOC account in Beijing administered by a senior operative of Hamas and PIJ. From there, the funds were transferred to Hamas and PIJ leaders in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and used to carry out terrorist attacks.
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, in April 2005, Israeli counter terrorism officers met with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and China’s Central Bank regarding these wire transfers. The Israelis demanded that the Chinese officials take action to prevent BOC from making any further such transfers. Despite the Israeli warnings, the BOC – with the Chinese government’s approval – continued to wire terrorist funds for Hamas and PIJ.
Earlier, the case caused friction between Israel and both the U.S. and Chinese governments. According to reports, the Chinese threatened to cancel Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the country this past May if Israel refused to promise that senior defense officials would refrain from testifying against the Bank of China. Netanyahu then instructed officials not to testify in the case for fear it would negatively impact his trip.
This outraged American officials, especially Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, whose cousin Daniel Wultz was killed in a suicide attack in 2006 and whose family is one of the plaintiffs in the case.
Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who is representing the plaintiffs, welcomed the court’s decision.
“This is another obstacle we overcame in our journey to get justice for the terror victims,” Darshan-Leitner said in a statement.