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U.S. Veterans and Families Sue Six Banks Accused of Financing Iran Terror Groups

Just prior to Veterans Day, November 10, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in the Eastern Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York against six major international banks allegedly engaged in transfers of funds with a leading Iranian bank. The defendants in the action include HSBC Bank USA, Barclays, London’s Standard Chartered Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse, and London-based Iranian Bank Saderat.  The suit is on behalf of more than 200 plaintiffs Veterans and families of US service personnel and a journalist killed or maimed in Iraq. Attacks that occurred over the period from 2004 to 2008 by terrorist groups affiliated with Iran’s Quds Force and its proxy Hezbollah.  Over 80 wounded veterans are among the plaintiffs, many victims of Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.D.).  The suit by the plaintiffs is requesting a jury trial.

The New York Times in its account of the lawsuit drew from the complaint compelling examples of the victims of Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah attacks in Iraq:

The sneak attack on the compound outside Baghdad in January 2007, the lawsuit said, was the work of a terrorist group “trained and armed by Iran’s Quds Force with Hezbollah’s assistance.” Once inside the compound, the group sprayed bullets and lobbed grenades, killing several American soldiers, including 20-year-old Jonathon M. Millican, who jumped on one of the grenades. Mr. Millican’s widow and father joined the lawsuit, along with the families of three other soldiers killed in that attack and a surviving soldier who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The journalist, Steven Vincent, was kidnapped and shot in August 2005. His widow, mother and father are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Christopher M. Hake was on his second tour of duty in Iraq in March 2008 when an Iranian-manufactured explosive device went off near his vehicle and killed him.

The NYT noted this example of flagrant disregard by one of the six banks accused in the complaint caught evading financial sanctions against dealings with Iranian financial institutions:

The lawsuit cites a series of emails and conversations taken  from the banks’ settlements with federal prosecutors, offering a lens inside the banks’ flagrant disregard for sanctions against Iran. A Standard Chartered executive, in response to concerns raised by an employee in New York, reportedly replied: “You f–ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?”

The Eastern District Brooklyn federal court figured prominently in a jury verdict in the case of Almog v. Arab Bank  rendered in September 2014. The plaintiffs were 6,000 terrorist victims of more than 24 Hamas attacks involving Americans and families in Israel. The jury found the Jordan- based Arab Bank liable for transfers to the terrorist group Hamas.  The Arab Bank suit presiding federal Judge is now determining how best to handle the damages assessment phase.   Both lawsuits were filed under the 1990 U.S. Antiterrorism Act that provided a civil cause of actions for international acts of terrorism and an extraterritorial jurisdiction in federal courts.  Some of the lawyers in this current suit were also counsel in the Arab Bank matter.

There are similar cases pending against the Bank of China, NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais.  One example is the $338 million damages award against the Bank of China in 2012 in a verdict by a DC federal court in a case brought by Shurat HaDin Israel law Center of Tel Aviv headed by Nitsana Darshan Leitner and US co-counsel New York attorney Robert Tolchin.  The Center and US counsel brought the suit on behalf of the family of the late Danny Wultz of Weston, Florida who was mortally wounded in a Palestinian terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in 2006. The terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad involved in perpetrating the attack used funds provided by Iran through transfers via the Bank of China.

Washington Free Beacon report on the suit noted the arguments contained in the plaintiffs compliant:

The veterans argue that the banks helped Iran illegally move “billions of dollars” to terrorist entities that later targeted U.S. troops in attacks.

The suit alleges these banks are knowingly acting as key cogs in Iran’s efforts to evade U.S. sanctions and provide “material support” to Hezbollah and other terror groups, which, at Tehran’s behest, have carried out attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq.

“Defendants’ unlawful conduct was purposefully directed at the United States, and the conspiracy was specifically designed to effectuate the flow of billions of U.S. dollars through the United States in violation of U.S. laws, and in fact resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars illegally passing through the United States,” plaintiffs argue in the complaint filed by New Jersey-based Osen & Associates.

The veterans and their families are seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the banks as a result of their alleged support for Iranian terrorism.

The suit alleges that the international banks in question were “knowingly” part of a “conspiracy” by Iran to skirt international sanctions.

The lawsuit explains in great detail how Iran has funneled money to Hezbollah and other terror entities in Iraq. Iranian money, the suit alleges, was spent to train terrorists and arm them with IEDs and other weapons typically used to kill and wound U.S. soldiers.

The context of this latest US antiterrorism suit-Iran’s Quds Force involved with proxy Hezbollah fighting US forces in the Iraq War-comes at a time when the Administration has reached out to Iran’s Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei seeking the Islamic  Regime’s  assistance in fighting the Islamic State, ISIS.  Already heavily engaged in Iraq advising the Iraqi national security forces on how to combat ISIS is none other than the head of the Quds Force, Qassem Suleymani, along with Hezbollah operatives.

We hope that this federal lawsuit at least finds these major banks dealing with Iranian financial institutions complicit in the terror financing of Al Quds and Hezbollah who killed Americans and maimed US vets for life.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.