In 2015, 11,774 terrorist attacks in 94 countries took place, resulting in close to 30,000 deaths. Shockingly, this number was actually down from the number of terrorist attacks and deaths reported in 2014. In reports from the U.S. State Department, Iran has remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism for the past decade and longer, providing financial support as well as training and equipment to terrorist groups across the globe. In fact, it is well known that Iran has provided arms and cash to such terrorist groups as Hezbolla, Iraqi Shi and Kata’ib Hizballah groups, and is one of three primary state sponsors of terrorism (Syria and Sudan are the other two). Despite sanctions by the U.S., Iran has continued to sponsor terrorism, however there are other culprits involved as well. The reason Iran has been able to sponsor terrorism which has killed and injured thousands of U.S. soldiers, contractors and their families, boils down to one word—money.
European Banks Finance Iranian Terrorism
In 2014, BNP Paribas, a French bank, pled guilty to two criminal charges regarding violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan, agreeing to pay almost $9 billion for the violations. BNPP was also banned from conducting certain U.S. dollar transactions for a year. BNP Paribas admitted to setting up elaborate payment structures, routing Iranian, Cuban and Sudanese transactions through satellite banks as a disguise. The transactions engaged in by BNPP not only supported terrorism, but violated human rights. In addition to BNP Paribas, the following EU banks have also been implicated in the violation of U.S. anti-terrorism laws:
· Standard Chartered Bank, a London banking institution, also reached a settlement in 2012 with the United States, paying $227 million in fines.
· Barclays PLC paid $298 million to the United States government in 2010, admitting it knowingly and willfully moved “hundreds of millions of dollars” through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Burmese, Sudanese, Cuban, Libyan and Iranian banks.
· HSBC Holding Group PLC, a London bank, agreed to a $1.256 billion penalty in 2012, as a condition of their deferred prosecution agreement.
· Commerzbank A.G, also made it a condition of their penalty payment ($392 million) that their criminal prosecution would be deferred.
· Credit Suisse made the same deal with the U.S. government in 2009, forfeiting $536 million in an agreement which deferred criminal prosecution.
These banks knowingly and unlawfully agreed to engage in “stripping” billions of U.S. dollars on behalf of Iran, despite the fact they knew Iran was a designated state sponsor of terrorism. This Iranian money eventually landed in the hands of Hezbollah and other terrorists, helping to plan and perpetrate the death and injury of hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The current anti-terrorism lawsuits, brought on behalf of American soldiers and contractors who were injured or killed as a result of Iranian-sponsored terrorism, reference more than 60 lethal operations carried out between 2003 and 2011. Further, loved ones of those killed or injured in such infamous assaults as the 2007 Karbala, Iraq attack on U.S. military personnel in 2007 are also entitled to bring an anti-terrorism lawsuit under U.S. laws.
What Does Delayed Prosecution Mean for These EU Banks?
Unfortunately, in most cases, delayed prosecution basically means no prosecution, so long as the banks pay their fines to the U.S. Government. By agreeing to delayed prosecution, the government is able to secure the large fines imposed, while the banks are able to dodge criticism regarding potential relationships with extremists and banking transactions, since there is no public court scrutiny involved. Had the U.S. chosen to press criminal charges, the banks would have almost certainly lost their banking licenses in the U.S.—a move which, according to some, could have destabilized the entire banking system.
How Has Iran Sponsored Terrorism Which Affected U.S. Soldiers, Contractors and Their Families?
While it is clear that the sanctions put into place by the U.S. Government prohibit financial institutions from dealing with countries which have a track record of terrorism financing and money laundering, you may wonder just how Iran has engaged in terrorism against the U.S. Some examples include:
· Hezbollah is a direct product of Iran, formally established in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Revolutionary Guard Corps members were sent by Iran to assist in the war, and Iran funds, arms and trains Hezbollah.
· Iran also has a relationship with the Palestinian Islamist group, Hamas, which is the dominant party in Palestinian territories which rely on terrorism. Iran has provided funding and training for Hamas since the 1990’s.
· Iran has also had extended contact with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, training members of the PIJ at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, and continuing to fund the group.
· Iran has continued its uranium enrichment program, despite imposed sanctions, contending it has the right to create a civil nuclear program. Obviously, this is of concern to the U.S., as weapons of mass destruction could be transferred to terrorist groups.
· Iran supplied ammunitions in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as:
Ø IRAMs or RAMs—Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions, or rocket-propelled bombs. IRAMs are essentially propane tanks filled with explosives, powered by rockets and launched from the back of trucks or deployed by remote control.
Ø EFPs—Explosively formed penetrators. The New York Times called this weapon the most lethal weapon faced by American forces in Iraq, due to the fact they are armor-piercing weapons which can be hidden far away from the road, often camouflaged as rocks or trash, and can travel 100 yards or more.
Ø IEDs—Improvised Explosive Devices. These roadside bombs use a detonating mechanism, and have been used often in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As many as 63 percent of coalition deaths which occurred from the beginning of the Iraq War through 2007 were from IEDs. About 66 percent of the deaths in the Afghanistan War from 2001 to today were caused by IEDs.
· IEDs and EFPs which were used in Iraq were manufactured in large quantities in Iranian Factories. These weapons were responsible for the death and injuries of U.S. soldiers and contractors.
· Iran shipped high-tech weapons to extremist Shia groups, which were responsible for killing American soldiers and contractors.
The one thing Iran lacked in its terrorism war was money, which is why the sanctions were imposed in the first place—to prevent countries from engaging in state-sponsored terrorism which could kill and injure our soldiers and contractors. In order to pay the bounties to terrorists for attacking civilians and United States soldiers and contractors, Iran depended on the EU banks, who acted knowingly and willfully to sponsor terrorism. This money was used to recruit, train, arm, command and fund Shia and Sunni terrorist organizations who then then murdered U.S. soldiers and Citizen-contractors in Iraq. In the end, tens of thousands of Americans were wounded or killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011, as a direct result of the banks’ conspiracy with Iran.
Are You Entitled to File an Anti-Terrorism Lawsuit?
The United States has long imposed Iranian sanctions for state-sponsored terrorism, making it illegal for Iran to access the United States financial system. Despite full knowledge that Iran was funding Iraq war terrorists, these banks continued to finance the country with billions of U.S. dollars, altering documents to hide these actions from the United States. As a result of these financial transactions, international acts of terrorism were committed against American soldiers and civilian contractors. These United States service members, veterans and contractors injured or killed in the Iraq War or in Afghanistan could be entitled to file an anti-terrorism lawsuit, seeking compensation from the banks which helped fund terrorist groups. It could be beneficial for you to speak to an anti-terrorism lawyer to determine whether your rights have been violated and whether you have a valid claim against these banks.