NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The families of twenty Israeli terror victims have won a monumental decision in the New York State Appellate Division (1st Dept.) in their case against the Bank of China (BOC). The Appellate Court affirmed that the civil action brought in 2008 by the Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket attacks and suicide bombings can proceed against the BOC in the United States.
Importantly, the Appellate Division also held that the trial court should apply Israeli law in hearing the case. The defendant had argued that Chinese law should be utilized as the BOC is headquartered in Beijing, but the Court was unconvinced. This decision to use Israeli law will allow the non-American plaintiffs in the case to maintain their claims that the BOC should be held liable for providing financial services to Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror organizations and makes it easier to establish that the bank violated banking regulations and US criminal statutes by carrying out the money transfers.
As the Court held: "We find that there is nothing repugnant to New York public policy in holding that Israeli law applies to this action. We also find that the complaint has sufficiently alleged negligence under Israeli law... Although a straightforward reading of the Israeli enactments would lead to the conclusion that they concern conduct that is broader in scope than most of what BOC is alleged to have done, the record contains opinions written by experts in Israeli law; plaintiffs' expert explains that BOC's alleged transmission of funds is sufficient to bring it under the enactment forbidding the 'giving' or 'payment' of funds to terrorist groups."
The plaintiffs, are represented by New York attorney Robert Tolchin and Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
The civil action brought on behalf of the victims and family members of victims of terror attacks perpetrated between 2004 and 2007 in Israel alleges that starting in 2003, the BOC executed dozens of wire transfers for the Hamas and PIJ totaling several million dollars. These dollar transfers were initiated by the PIJ and Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, were processed through BOC's branches in the United States and were sent on to a BOC account in Beijing administered by a senior operative of the Hamas and PIJ. From there, the funds were transferred to Hamas and PIJ leaders in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and used to carry out terrorist attacks. The families are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
According to the plaintiffs' complaint, in April 2005, Israeli counter terrorism officers met with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and China's Central Bank regarding these Hamas and PIJ wire transfers. The Israelis demanded that the Chinese officials take action to prevent BOC from making any further such transfers. Despite the Israeli warnings, the BOC – with the Chinese government's approval – continued to wire terrorist funds for the Hamas and PIJ. The suit was brought against the BOC on behalf of the Israeli victims, alleging that the BOC had knowingly transferred funds for the Palestinian terror organizations.
The plaintiffs, include the family of Emi Elmaliah, Israel Zamalloa and Michael Saadon, who were murdered on January 27, 2007 in a suicide bombing in a bakery in Eilat. The attack was carried out by a PIJ bomber from Gaza. The Court's ruling means that these families and the other victims of the Hamas and PIJ attacks can now proceed to the discovery and trial stages.
FOR A COPY OF THE COURT'S DECISION:
SOURCE Nitsana Darshan-Leitner