Arab Bank Plc maintained accounts for senior Hamas leaders, including former spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a former Israeli military official testified in a U.S. trial over claims the bank helped finance suicide bombings carried out by the Palestinian militant group.
Arieh Spitzen, the former head of the Israeli military’s Department of Palestinian Affairs, told jurors yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, that the bank transferred about $4 million from 2000 to 2001 to as many as two dozen Hamas leaders and operatives through its New York branch.
The Jordanian bank, based in Amman and the country’s largest, is accused of facilitating 24 attacks in or near Israel from 2001 to 2004. The bank has argued it “had no intention of providing support to Hamas or any other known terrorist organization” and that it engaged in appropriate practices for screening transactions.
Spitzen said that some of the Hamas leaders with accounts at the bank were “well known people” who “appeared in dozens of media outlets.” An account number for Yassin, who was killed in 2004, was also publicized by the media, he said.
The former military official testified as an expert on behalf of the plaintiffs, about 300 U.S. citizens who were victims of the attacks or were their relatives. Spitzen said the evidence of Arab Bank account holders he was able to review was limited because the bank refused to hand over much of the data.
The bank has argued that it couldn’t supply more comprehensive information without violating criminal laws of Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. A federal judge ruled that jurors can be told to infer from the bank’s failure to produce the information that it intentionally provided services to terrorist groups, giving plaintiffs a potential advantage in the trial.
The case is Linde v. Arab Bank Plc, 04-cv-02799, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).