China’s astronomic rise in economic, military, and diplomatic strength poses numerous challenges to American interests on both the domestic and international fronts. China’s support of regimes and international actors hostile to American interests overseas (such as Sudanese leader Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad) has been well-documented for several years; however, evidence has recently emerged pointing to growing ties between the People’s Republic of China and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party classified as a terror group by the U.S. State Department and European Union.
An investigation recently undertaken by the Israel Law Center Shurat haDin yielded proof that the Bank of China (BOC), China’s third largest lender by assets, bears direct responsibility for offering financial assistance to Hamas in the form of executing wire transfers of several millions of dollars since 2003. Based on this evidence, Shurat haDin filed a billion-dollar lawsuit on Tuesday, October 23 against the Bank of China for intentionally providing banking services to Hamas through their New York City branch.
“The banking giant knowingly assisted the Islamic group to carry out [a] Jerusalem attack with the full approval of the Chinese government,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the group’s chief counsel and director.
Hamas leaders regularly withdrew amounts of around $100,000 in cash from the Bank of China, usually within one day of a deposit, over a period of years, the case alleges, and the Bank of China “was under an obligation to monitor, report, and refuse to execute such suspicious and irregular banking transactions,” but did not, the complaint reads.
The lawsuit, brought to the New York State Supreme Court, is on behalf of five families who lost loved ones in a terror attack at Jerusalem’s Merkaz haRav Yeshiva, an institute of advanced Jewish learning in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, on March 6, 2008. Eight students were killed in the attack, and 11 more were wounded at the hands of 26-year-old Hamas gunman Alaa Abu Dhein.
China’s then-Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang publicly condemned the attack, saying in a press release that “China condemns this violent incident targeting at the civilians,” and he called upon the relevant sides to practice restraint and avoid taking any action to deteriorate the regional situation.
The suit, Rot v. Bank of China, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, and argues that the wire transfers issued by the Chinese state-owned bank were initiated by the Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, processed through BOC branches in the United States and sent on to a BOC account in China operated by a senior terror operative. The funds were then transferred to Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
In April 2005, Israeli counterterrorism officers met with officials from China’s Central Bank. Israel demanded that the Chinese officials take action to prevent the BOC from further wire transfers, but Chinese officials ignored the request. “Despite these warnings, the state-owned bank, with Beijing’s approval, continued to wire funds for terrorism, all while declaring that they did not consider Hamas a terrorist group,” stressed Darshan-Leitner.
Shurat haDin also found that most of the wire transfers were made to account #4750401-0188-150882-6 at a Bank of China branch in Guangzhou, China, in the name of “S.Z.R Al-Shurafa.” The owner of the account, Said Al-Shurafa, is a senior officer and agent of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terror group with major backing from Iran, which views itself as an “insurance policy” in case Hamas abandons its “battle” altogether. Funds were subsequently transferred from Al-Shurafa’s account to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank for the purpose of planning, preparing for, and executing terrorist attacks.