Arab Bank settles US case over ‘terrorism funding’

Jordan-based bank had been found liable by a US jury for financing terrorism for transferring funds for Hamas members.

arab bank
Arab Bank is hugely respected in the Middle East, with branches in more than 600 branches in 30 countries [AFP]

Arab Bank has agreed to settle a litigation case brought by hundreds of Americans who accused it of facilitating armed attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, nearly a year after a US jury found the bank liable.

The settlement was confirmed on Friday by Michael Elsner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, and a spokesman for Arab Bank. The terms were not disclosed.

Elsner said the framework of the deal would be finalised over the next few months.

A trial had been scheduled to start on Monday to begin determining how much the bank would have to pay the victims and their families.

The Jordan-based multinational lender was found liable by a US jury in September 2014 for financing terrorism by transferring funds for members of Hamas.

Approximately 500 US citizens had sued Arab Bank under the US Anti-Terrorism Act, which permits US citizens to pursue claims arising from international terrorism.

The plaintiffs included both victims of attacks carried out by Hamas and other groups, as well as family members of the victims.

At trial, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Arab Bank knowingly maintained accounts for Hamas operatives and facilitated payments to families of suicide bombers and those imprisoned or injured during a Palestinian uprising beginning in 2000.

Arab Bank argued that it had followed proper screening procedures to checked accounts and transactions against lists of designated terrorist organisations.

Several other banks are facing similar claims in US courts under the Anti-Terrorism Act, including Bank of China, Credit Lyonnais, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, among others.

‘Incorrect and prejudicial rulings’

Arab Bank is widely known in the Middle East, with branches in more than 600 branches in 30 countries.

According to its website, the bank is the highest-ranked by market capitalisation, and represents 28 per cent of the Amman Stock Exchange.

The bank, which has assets worth $46.4bn, has bitterly contested the September 2014 liability verdict and had vowed to appeal in a process that would likely drag on for years.

It complained about “incorrect and prejudicial rulings,” and took issue with a string of court rulings, instructions to the jury, and the admission and exclusion of evidence.

At trial, the bank rejected any suggestion that it knowingly made payments to designated terrorists.

The plaintiffs said the bank transferred more than $70m to an alleged Saudi terrorist entity, charities they claimed were a front for Hamas and 11 globally designated terrorist clients.

The court heard that the bank was able to transfer $60,000 to Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004 – due to a spelling mistake of his name, which was not detected by screening software.

The plaintiffs said the bank violated the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when the lender served as a conduit for money from a Saudi fund to families of Palestinians who died, including suicide bombers.

Source: News Agencies