September 29, 2022: Habib Bank Ltd (HBL) failed to shake off claims of aiding and abetting al-Qaeda terrorism and joining in a conspiracy to launch attacks that killed or injured 370 plaintiffs or their family members, according to a report filed by Bloomberg.
HBL, the largest commercial bank in Pakistan, faces secondary liability under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act as a party that “aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance, or who conspires with the person who committed such an act of international terrorism,” Judge Lorna G. Schofield said Wednesday.
The plaintiffs in the three consolidated cases sufficiently allege that the attacks were planned or authorized by an organization designated under the Immigration and Nationality Act as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, including alQaeda or one of the “syndicate FTOs,” which include Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and its alter ego AlRehmat Trust, the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, and the Pakistani Taliban, Schofield said.
And the plaintiffs sufficiently allege that the bank knew its customers were “integral to al-Qaeda’s overall campaign of terrorism, carried out directly and by proxy,” which is sufficient to allege general awareness.
The complaints also show that the bank “knowingly and substantially” helped “al-Qaeda and its proxies evade sanctions” and engage in terrorist acts, which satisfies the “knowing assistance” requirement, Schofield, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, said.
The allegations that the bank “took deliberate steps to help customers evade international sanctions regimes, and in doing so incurred business risk that ultimately led to defendant’s expulsion from the U.S.,” are sufficient to show that HBL joined in a conspiracy to commit the attacks, Schofield said. Schofield, however, dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims of primary liability because none of the alleged banking services provided by Habib “were themselves acts of international terrorism.”
Sparacino PLLC and Goldstein & Russell PC represent the plaintiffs. Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP represents the bank.
The HBL had earlier agreed to pay $225 million to settle an enforcement action brought against it for infringing laws designed to combat illicit money transfers.
The Department of Financial Services in New York had said in a legal filing in 2017 that it was seeking to fine HBL up to $630mn for “grave” compliance failures over anti-money laundering and sanctions rules at its only U.S. branch. However, the bank only agreed to pay $225mn in a broader settlement under which it agreed to shut down its New York branch.
Mettis Global tried to contact HBL but received no answer.