The Bank of China knowingly laundered money for various Islamic militant groups so they could get around transaction restrictions because of their label as a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. government, a lawsuit by Israeli victims of suicide bombings claims. Recent court decisions in the United States say the lawsuits can go forward against the Chinese bank.
Fox News has learned that Israeli intelligence officials warned the Chinese government that Iran was using Bank of China to finance its militant networks, including providing account numbers and transaction details, only to have the Chinese turn a blind eye as the money went to make bombs that would kill dozens of civilians.
An explosion at a Tel Aviv sandwich shop in April 2006 took just a second to kill nine and injure 60.
In the moments after, it’s chaos. But the families of the victims have a lifetime to suffer and consider -- exactly how a suicide attack really starts. Normally such attacks start not with a bomb but with planning -- and money. According to the son of one man killed in the 2006 Shawarma stand attack, the needed money was laundered halfway around the world by the Bank of China.
“Bank of China is the same as Islamic Jihad. Any group…is as bad as Iran for me,” Tal Erez said.
What makes these allegations even more explosive is the sworn testimony of an Israeli intelligence agent who says he personally warned the Bank of China they were moving money to build bombs and pay suicide bombers who would eventually kill hundreds.
“If (Bank of China) didn’t give them the instruments to transfer money, although Israel asked them to shut down these accounts, then probably my father wouldn’t be murdered six years ago,” Tal said.
While it has been nearly impossible to sue individual terror groups, lawyer Nitzana Darshan says going after their bankers is just as effective as arresting or killing groups’ leadership.
“The suicide bomber knows that in the end of the day, after they carry out an attack, there will be someone who will be taking care of their family for the rest of their lives. It is all based on money. You cut the funding, you cut the terrorism,” said Darshan.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack that killed Tal’s father. The 16-year-old bomber came from the town of Jenin and blew himself up during the Jewish holy week of Passover.
Typically in suicide bombings, the bomber’s family is paid between $10,000 and $25,000 by the organization that sent their loved one to kill.
The case is one of the first times, however, that Israelis are using U.S. courts to go after a financial institution for allowing transactions of this type. Darshan says the threat of civil liability for banks has already curtailed the ability of militant groups to move needed funds to buy weapons or the hearts and minds of those where they operate.
“Our goal is to block the funding. To get the terror organization beyond the banking system because if they can’t wire hundreds of millions of dollars, they don’t have a choice but to bring them in suitcases or smuggling through the tunnels into Gaza or to South Lebanon. And if you cut these pipelines you defiantly hurt and damage the terror organization,” said Darshan.
The Bank of China refused repeated requests by Fox News for an interview or to respond directly to questions about their involvement in moving money for Islamic Jihad or the alleged warning given by Israel’s Mossad Intelligence Service. Through their lawyer, the bank sent an emailed statement saying in part, “Bank of China Ltd. ('BOC') has answered the lawsuit and formally denied the plaintiffs' allegations. Since the litigation is pending, BOC will not comment to the media on it.”
According to the affidavit, known Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders in Iran wired money to a numbered Bank of China account in Guanzhoua, China, which was controlled by Said al-Shurafa, an operative of both organizations. It's alleged that al-Shurafa would then transfer the money via various means from Guanzhoua to fellow militants in the West Bank and Gaza. In all, the affidavit details transfer of more than $1.1 million.
Tal often looks back at a picture of his father, a veteran of the 1967 Israeli war. He remembers his father as a fighter – inspiration for Tal to continue the fight against the bank he now considers a mortal enemy.
“My father was a peace man, he wants peace. I want to continue his ways,” he said. “I want that the people that did these terrible things will go to jail or will pay something (so) that they will not do that again. This is our way to say – father we won. This is our heritage for him.”
Leland Vittert currently serves as a FOX News Channel (FNC) foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem. He joined the network in 2010.