Last updated: 23 September, 2014

Jordan backs Arab Bank support after Hamas verdict

Jordan’s central bank said Tuesday it still supports Jordan-based Arab Bank, found liable in a US court of supporting terrorism, saying it had been unable to defend itself adequately.

A New York jury found the multinational lender liable Monday on 24 counts of supporting terrorism by transferring funds to Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, blacklisted by Washington as terrorists.

A lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of 300 American relatives and the victims of 24 attacks carried out in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The central bank said it had been offering its “support and assistance” throughout the case, stemming from the “government’s confidence in the Arab Bank’s banking operations and compliance procedures”.

Arab Bank, which has assets worth $46.4 billion (36 billion euros), has said it will appeal, citing “scores of errors” in the trial.

“In addition to the deeply flawed sanctions, the court gagged the bank by excluding many of its witnesses, severely restricting the ability of other witnesses to testify and precluding all evidence of its innocent state of mind.”

That was echoed by the Jordanian central bank, which said the lender’s “ability to defend itself was prejudiced” by the sanctions order, leading to an “unjust and legally unsound verdict”.

Noting that it had not found any risks to Arab Bank’s financial health, it said it “remains confident” about the strength of its operations and compliance procedures and its ability to withstand the likely repercussions of the litigation.

Analysts expect a motion to the trial court to set aside the verdict and then appeals, which would likely take years.

The defence argued there was no evidence Arab Bank executives supported terrorism and rubbished the allegation that the institution knowingly made payments to designated terrorists.

But the plaintiffs said the bank transferred more than $70 million to an alleged Saudi terror entity, charities they claim were a front for Hamas and 11 globally designated terrorist clients.

The Arab Bank Group has more than 600 branches in 30 countries and a shareholders’ equity base of $7.8 billion.