In a bid to both bankrupt those who finance terror and bring some sense of justice to its victims, the legal team that is suing the Saudis for $1 trillion has launched yet another massive lawsuit against prime supporters of radical Islamic jihad.
Filing in the Eastern District of New York late last month on behalf of 700 survivors and family members of those killed by terrorism in Israel, legendary trial lawyer Ron Motley is seeking unspecified billions to continue his quest to change the face of counterterrorism.
Motley, who made a mint taking on the likes of tobacco companies and asbestos manufacturers, is now leading the charge against Arab Bank, which operates in every Arab country that allows private banking. Among its 400 branches and offices in 30 countries?and the reason the plaintiffs have a real shot at recovery?is a long-standing, federally-chartered branch in New York City.
While the case against the Saudis is considered a long shot by many legal experts?though plaintiff insiders feel the action is going quite well?the Arab Bank lawsuit seems solid.
Or maybe a better word is damning.
Though there has been no ?discovery? yet?the process where the defendant is supposed to provide any number of documents and the juiciest stuff is often revealed?Motley?s team already appears to have a wealth of incriminating evidence against Arab bank.
According to the initial complaint, Arab Bank has funneled billions of dollars to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other terrorist organizations.
But most damning is that the bank?s chairman and part-owner is an outspoken advocate of Islamic jihad.
Arab Bank Chairman Abd al-Majid Shuman, whose family is believed to hold 40% of the institution?s stock, has been quite public with his support for the Palestinian intifada, the four-year campaign of terror aimed primarily at innocent Israeli civilians. Arab-language newspaper articles excerpted in the complaint indicate that Shuman is a well-known advocate of the Intifada.
Shuman, either for purposes of marketing or genuine expression of his true sentiments, allegedly told a Jordanian newspaper four years ago that Jews have no right to live in ?Palestine.? From al-Dustour in July 2000 (during the infamous Camp David talks, where Arafat walked away from the table): ?Shuman said he was against a Palestinian compromise [based on] a partial return [which included] the loss of some land, and that the Jews had no right to the land of Palestine.?
Other banks owned at least in part by the Shuman family appear to have acted openly to help realize Shuman?s dream of no Jews in ?Palestine.? Arab Bank?s chairman allegedly issued a press release stating that the primary activities of another of his family?s financial institutions related to supporting Palestinian jihad.
Following is an excerpt from a May 30, 2001 article in al-Dayan newspaper of United Arab Emirates: ?Abd al-Majid Shuman, chairman of the board of Al-Ta?awun in Geneva, stated in a press release that most of the institution?s activities centered around supporting the Intifada and the Al-Aqsa Fund, which the institution had established at the beginning of the confrontation.?
Arab Bank also appears to have openly supported the Intifada. Shuman is cited in al-Dustour in October 2000 as having orchestrated Arab Bank employees ?to donate 5% of their salaries? ?in solidarity and in support of the Al Aqsa Intifada.?
The same article also asserts that Arab Bank hosted a meeting of the Popular Committee for Support of the Intifada, where the group discussed its plans to ?continue giving direct financial aid to the families of shaheeds (martyrs) and the wounded of the Al-Aqsa intifada as follows: 1000 dinars [roughly $1,400] to the family of each shaheed and 300 dinars [just over $400] to the families of the wounded.?
Lawyers representing Arab Bank, not surprisingly, released a boilerplate denial, stating, ?The accusations being brought against the Bank, as we understand them, are entirely false.?
If Arab Bank has not supported terrorism, however, then either Shuman has lied about his jihadist financing or various Arab newspapers have fabricated statements from him.
Neither potential explanation, though, would account for documents captured by the Israeli Defense Forces that show money being funneled to Hamas and other terrorist groups through Arab Bank?s New York branch.
The plaintiffs have already scored a major victory?before the case was even filed. Last month, a federal court in Chicago ordered the Quranic Literacy Institute to pay $156 million to the Boim family, whose 17-year-old son was shot to death in the West Bank in 1996. The ?non-profit? had been found liable in David?s death for its role in helping finance Hamas. It was the first time American-based supporters of terrorism had been held responsible for the actions of the terrorists they sponsor.
Regardless of how the case against Arab Bank turns out, terror?s sponsors will not have seen the last of Motley and his crew. The maverick trial lawyer is driven to bankrupt those who support and perpetrate terrorism; the September 11 victims? families he represents operate under the name ?9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism.?
Both in terms of punishing terrorism supporters and stopping the future flow of blood money, the suit against Arab Bank hopefully will mark another significant step by victims in their own war against terror.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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