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Vets, victims’ family members suing European banks for supporting terrorism

TerrorismVets, victims’ family members suing European banks for supporting terrorism

Published 13 November 2014

About 200 U.S. veterans and family members of soldiers killed in Iraq filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, claiming five European banks were partly responsible for a series of shootings and roadside bombings in Iraq. The lawsuit brought under the 1992 U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which permits victims to bring private suits against alleged financiers of militant and terrorist operations.

About 200 U.S. veterans and family members of soldiers killed in Iraq filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, claiming five European banks were partly responsible for a series of shootings and roadside bombings in Iraq. The lawsuit brought under the 1992 U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which permits victims to bring private suits against alleged financiers of militant and terrorist operations, claims Barclays Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, and Standard Chartered helped financed terror by masking wire transactions for Iranian banks in order to evade U.S. sanctions. The result of the conspiracy, according to the lawsuit, was that four Iranian banks were able to divert more than $150 million to Iran-sponsored militant groups attacking U.S. troops in Iraq.

“The defendants provided Iran with the means by which it could transfer more than $150 million to the I.R.G.C.-Q.F., Hezbollah and Special Groups, which were actively engaged in planning and perpetrating the murder and maiming of hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” the lawsuit read.

The banks have acknowledged transferring millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks. Insurance Journal reports that since 2009, the five banks have agreed to pay about $3.2 billion to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that they processed financial transactions in violation of sanctions against countries such as Iran, Libya, and Cuba. All five banks signed deferred prosecution agreements with the U.S. Justice Department. The agreements did not allege a link between the transactions and militant operations.

A similar lawsuit was resolved in September when jurors found Arab Bank liable for financing twenty-four Hamas attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories between 2001 and 2004. That case linked Arab Bank directly to wire transfers, which alleged Hamas leaders used to pay suicide bombers and Hamas militants. This new case does not claim a direct link between the European banks and the attacks on U.S. soldiers, instead the lawsuit claims the banks indirectly facilitated the attacks by assisting in the transfer of funds. “Each defendant understood that their conduct was part of a larger scheme engineered by Iran,” said Gary Osen, one of the lawyers who filed the suit. “At a minimum, he said, the banks were “deliberately indifferent” about the transactions they processed for Iran.”

The lawsuit cites several e-mails and conversations taken from the banks’ previous settlements with federal prosecutors that share insight on the banks’ position on U.S. sanctions against Iran. TheNew York Times reports that in one e-mail, an executive from Standard Chartered replied to concerns raised by an employee in New York of the alleged transactions. Referring to Americans, the executive reportedly said, “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?”

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