Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in the US
...Americans who went to Israel and came home with enduring wounds after they were caught in attacks claimed by Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that took over the Palestinian government last month. These victims...are trying a novel strategy: going after banks they say helped to finance Palestinian terrorism. They are among some 50 Americans — either survivors or relatives of people killed in attacks — who have filed multimillion dollar suits in federal court in Brooklyn against three...international banks, Arab Bank, NatWest [part of Royal Bank of Scotland] and Crédit Lyonnais [part of Crédit Agricole]. The suits charge that the banks helped to channel funds to Hamas...Some of the suits claim that Arab Bank transferred millions of dollars in life insurance payments from a Saudi charity to families of suicide bombers, providing Hamas with a recruiting tool. The three banks are vigorously challenging the lawsuits. They say many of the financial transactions were tiny electronic blips in their routine international business and that they were not aware of any links to Hamas or terrorism...The prospects for the plaintiffs are uncertain...For the survivors, the lawsuits are also a means of defiance. The first was filed in July 2004 against Arab Bank, based in Jordan...It is accused of moving money from the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds, a private charity in Saudi Arabia, to Hamas front organizations...Arab Bank has responded that it never held accounts for the Saudi Committee or consulted with it. Rather, the bank says, it made routine electronic transfers...to accounts in its Palestinian branches based on instructions from the committee's Saudi banks...In January, the victims sued...NatWest...for maintaining accounts of the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, a British charity known as Interpal. President Bush designated Interpal as a Hamas fund-raiser in 2003, and barred banks in the United States from doing business with it. NatWest responded in legal papers that United Kingdom charity regulators had twice cleared Interpal of terrorist links. A third suit targets Crédit Lyonnais, which held accounts for a French charity known as C.B.S.P. that was designated a terrorist group by the United States in 2003. In court papers, the bank said that French authorities had cleared the charity.