NEW YORK, Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Faced with a U.S. regulatory
investigation and a series of lawsuits brought by families of American and
Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism, Arab Bank PLC, one of the largest
financial institutions in the Middle East, today announced plans to
"gradually" close its New York branch and end its American operations.
Lawyers for the American and Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism today
promised to pursue the bank despite its planned closure of its New York
"They can run, but they can't hide," said Ron Motley, lead litigation
counsel to the Israeli victims.
"Every major international bank needs a presence in New York," said Gary
M. Osen, one of the attorneys who filed the first civil case against Arab Bank
and who today represents the families of more than 40 American victims of
recent attacks during the Palestinian Intifada. "For Arab Bank to decide to
abandon the largest financial market in the world is very telling."
Arab Bank claims that the "operational environment in the United States is
not in line with the financial institution's strategy." Lawyers for the
victims suggest that the Arab Bank is seeking to avoid U.S. laws and
regulations implicated by Arab Bank's systematic provision of financial
services to the families of Palestinian terrorists and front organizations for
Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Motley and Osen said they would take immediate steps to prevent Arab Bank
from removing assets and documents from the United States.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Arab Bank is under investigation by
U.S. authorities for failing to report suspicious transactions destined for
the Middle East. According to the civil suits, Arab Bank, through its Madison
Avenue branch in Manhattan, has channeled large sums of money to terror front
groups and the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. The money transfers
violate American anti-terrorism laws, according to the lawsuits that are
pending in the U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York.
"Whether it retains a branch in the United States or not, Arab Bank
remains both legally and morally responsible for its actions. Payments to the
families of suicide bombers constitute a vital part of terrorism's economic
infrastructure," said former National Security Council official Lee Wolosky.
With $32 billion in assets and operations in 30 countries, Arab Bank is
among the largest in the Middle East and is the preeminent bank in the West
Bank and Gaza. Last year it reported net profits of more than $303 million.
Among other things, the Arab Bank launders Saudi payments to charitable
fronts for Palestinian terrorist groups and the families of so-called
"martyrs" by converting them into dollars at its Madison Avenue branch, the
lawsuits allege. The funds are then re-routed to local branches of Arab Bank
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and paid out for distribution to the families
of terrorists and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad front organizations,
according to the lawsuits.
"We are heartened by published reports that the U.S. Government intends to
take action and have every confidence that the United States will protect the
interests of the many American families victimized by Palestinian terrorism,"
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