A US federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Bank of China may be found liable for supporting terrorism in a case brought by the family of a US citizen killed in a 2006 suicide bombing in Israel.
The unusual 118-page ruling came as Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia denied a request by attorneys for the state-controlled bank, one of China's largest, to have it dropped from the case.
Victims of overseas terrorist attacks are increasingly turning to US courts for restitution. Many are pursuing claims not only against shadowy groups or rogue nations but also against financial institutions with substantial economic interests to defend.
The case in the D.C. federal court was brought by the parents of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old from South Florida who was visiting Israel four years ago when he was fatally wounded in a Tel Aviv attack. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, which the US government says receives support from Iran and safe haven from Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the suit, Wultz's parents, Yekutiel and Sheryl Wultz, are seeking $300 million in damages from Iran and Syria, and from the Bank of China (BOC), under legislation that allows victims to sue terror sponsoring states in US court.
The 2008 lawsuit alleges that officials at the BOC ignored warnings by senior Israeli officials that Islamic Jihad was financing deadly bombings through a BOC account in the US maintained by a member of the militant group, Said al-Shurafa.
In weighing whether the claims against the bank can go forward, Lamberth wrote: “The Court must assume the truth of this allegation, which is plausible because it is reasonable to assume that, although BOC is not directly owned by China . . . China does exert a measure of control over the BOC through China's central bank, the People's Bank of China.”
In a statement, Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said that China and Chinese businesses firmly oppose terrorism and “strongly question the allegations in question.”
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