Gold Star Families Accuse Big Banks of Aiding Terrorists


Anne Smedinghoff, a Foreign Service officer at the US Embassy in Kabul, was accompanying Afghan journalists on a tour. roadside bomb killed him The bomb’s design was based on manure made at two factories in Pakistan that regularly supplied a nearby Taliban bombing operation – a fact US officials announced.

Factories, Fatima Fertilizers and Pakarab Fertilizers were not night flight organizations. Both did business in US dollars through accounts at London-based Standard Chartered bank.

Now, Ms. Smedinghoff’s family and a group of nearly 500 people in Afghanistan, including seriously injured soldiers and civilians, and their families, are accusing some of the world’s largest banks of aiding terrorists. their attacks. The defendants include Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and Danske Bank.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, include the family of 115 Gold Stars, relatives of American soldiers killed in the war, and relatives of non-combatants like Smedinghoff, who was killed while taking journalists to the hospital. Watch US officials donate books to a school. They are demanding billions of dollars in compensation, arguing that banks provide accounts, transfers and other routine services to companies and individuals they know are helping terrorist networks responsible for hundreds of deadly attacks.

The case will powerfully test the reach of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, a 2016 anti-terrorism law. It allows victims of terrorism and their families to seek assistance from individuals, organizations, and countries that provide “direct or indirect financial support to foreign organizations or individuals engaged in terrorist activities against the United States.”

Victims and their families had previously sued banks under the law, and the results were mixed. Thursday’s lawsuit takes a broad approach: It refers to the banks’ relationships with individuals and companies dealing with attackers, rather than directly providing services to known terrorists.

This one-degree removal could allow banks to argue that their activities were not directly related to the bombings the case describes, as they are legitimate businesses, even if their clients have ties to criminals. If successful, the lawsuit could open the door to a flood of similar lawsuits.

A representative of Danske Bank did not immediately comment. Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered representatives declined to comment.

The 2016 law was passed to give victims of terrorism more leeway to sue governments and other organizations they believe are aiding terrorism. Before passing, such lawsuits could only be brought against organizations designated by the US government as state sponsors of terrorism. The law was written to help the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, making legal claims to Saudi Arabia for its role in helping their architect, Osama bin Laden.

While federal law makes it a criminal matter for banks to knowingly participate in illegal activities, including money transfers or other banking services, prosecutors have been reluctant to bring such cases, especially when they are linked to terrorism. If successful, such lawsuits will impose such heavy penalties that they can put banks out of business. Instead, prosecutors relied on victims and their families to pursue claims in civil courts.

The case relied heavily on public warnings issued by US authorities about companies and individuals with ties to terrorist networks. In 2013, for example, a senior Department of Defense official, Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, met with Standard Chartered executives to describe the US government’s efforts to block the flow of fertilizer to bomb manufacturers, citing specifically the bank’s fertilizer production customers. Mail on Sunday Reported in 2019.

Plaintiffs say the banks’ treatment of some of their customers shows that they understand how their services are linked to illegal activities. The lawsuit alleges, for example, that Deutsche Bank has charged higher-than-normal rates to move money around the world for some of its clients, including a Pakistani man whom the US government has marked as a money launderer for terrorists. In 2016, the government said a man named Altaf Khanani was laundering money for drug traffickers and other criminal organizations.

Deutsche Bank used a complex set of stock trades in the United States and Russia called mirror trades that allowed it to move money around the world on behalf of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Buzzfeed News reported last year.

Deutsche Bank’s use of mirror trades had previously attracted government scrutiny: US government officials and British regulators fined the bank, and the Justice Department conduct a criminal investigation.

David Enrich contributing reporting.


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