9/11 Families’ Suits Against Saudi Binladen Group Upheld

Saudi Binladen Group, relatives of Osama bin Laden and National Commercial Bank don’t have to face lawsuits brought by families and estates of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a U.S. appeals court ruled, upholding a lower court’s dismissal of the cases.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, in three related rulings today, reinstated lawsuits filed by victims against 12 defendants, all charities that the plaintiffs say provided support to al-Qaeda and bin Laden. Those cases were sent back to a lower court for more review.

The three-judge appeals panel said the lower-court judge presiding over the case correctly dismissed suits alleging that Binladen Group, co-founded by Osama Bin Laden’s father and now Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company, had supported the 2001 attacks. The panel also upheld dismissal of suits against five relatives of bin Laden.

The dismissal of a suit against National Commercial Bank, the Saudi state-controlled lender for lack jurisdiction was also upheld by the panel. The plaintiffs alleged that the bank maintained accounts for several charities accused of supporting al-Qaeda.

The bank provided significant financial support to bin Laden before he was removed as a shareholder in 1993, the plaintiffs said. The bank did so even though it had “knowledge that he was targeting the United States,” the plaintiffs said.

Financial lifeline

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan ruled in 2012 that the claims “have no evidentiary support” and that the plaintiffs had failed to show “the company maintained a financial lifeline to bin Laden,” as the lawsuits claimed.

Bin Laden, who used a family inheritance to build the al Qaeda terrorist network that killed almost 3,000 people in the attacks, was killed in May 2011 at his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs during a 40-minute raid.

The appeals court said today that the plaintiffs failed to establish the court’s authority over the parties in the suit. The appeals court agreed with Daniels that the business activities of an employee of the company’s now-defunct U.S. unit were insufficient for the court to confer jurisdiction over the case.

“In these circumstances we agree with the district court that nothing in the record supports the notion that these actions were expressly aimed at the United States in any meaningful way” to establish jurisdiction, the appeals panel said.

Charities, Princes

In 2005, U.S. District Judge Richard Casey, who presided over the case before his 2007 death, also dismissed suits against Saudi charitable organizations as well as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, three princes and several financial institutions for allegedly providing material support to bin Laden.

Bin Laden was born in Riyadh, the 17th child of Muhammad bin Laden, an immigrant from Yemen who helped found Saudi Binladin Group in 1931.

Osama grew up wealthy as his father’s business became one of the kingdom’s largest construction companies, building roads and bridges, renovating mosques in Mecca and Medina and expanding into real estate, textiles, telecommunications and distribution.

Muhammad bin Laden died in a plane crash in 1967, according to the Binladen Group’s website.

The case is In re Terrorist Attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, 11-3294, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan) and 03-mdl-01570, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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