Arab Bank was aware that it was processing wire transfers from a Saudi Arabian charity to the families of “martyrs” of the second Palestinian Intifada against Israel, according to deposition testimony from the bank’s global head of operations, played Thursday for jurors in a terrorism finance trial against the bank in federal district court in Brooklyn. Lawyers for nearly 300 American victims of Hamas attacks on Israel between 2000 and 2004 also aired deposition testimony in which they confronted three executives from Arab Bank’s Palestinian operations with evidence the bank was apprised that at least three of those “martyrs” killed themselves in civilian bombings.
The three officials said that they always followed the bank’s policies and procedures for transferring money from correspondent banks. But a former Arab Bank compliance executive from the London branch said in a deposition also played Thursday for the jury in Brooklyn that if he had seen the materials sent to those officials – including charts listing the cause of death of three of the men whose families were slated to receive wire transfers as “martyr operations” – he would not have processed the transfers.
“If this had arrived in London, which one never did in my experience, we would have immediately commissioned probably a multiple suspicious activity report, because this is something which we were most unused to dealing with,” testified former Arab Bank compliance official David Blackmore.
Blackmore’s testimony seemed designed to undercut Arab Bank’s primary defense, which is that its Palestinian branches engaged in nothing more than routine banking operations when they paid out about $100 million – about $40 million of it in cash over the counter – from the Saudi Committee for the Support of Intifada Al Quds, in money transfers via the Saudi-based Arab National Bank. Arab Bank’s lawyer, Shand Stephens of DLA Piper, told jurors in opening arguments earlier this month that the bank used standard banking compliance software to make sure that it was not processing payments to globally designated terrorists. (Four transactions in which Arab Bank did put funds in the hands of identified terrorists were “by mistake,” Stephens said in opening arguments.)
In the deposition testimony aired Thursday, Arab Bank officials from its Palestinian operations downplayed any suggestion that the wire transfers from the Saudi Committee were out of the ordinary. “We carried out the instructions of the correspondent bank,” said regional manager Assad Saleh, who audited operations in Ramallah. The Saudi Committee transfers, he said, were “just like any other.”