The civil lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York state court, alleges that Bank of China made dozens of wire transfers for the Palestinian group Hamas totaling several million dollars beginning in 2003.
The dollar transfers were initiated by Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, the lawsuit says, processed through the Bank of China's U.S. branches and sent on to a Bank of China account in China that was linked to a senior officer and agent of Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. Then the funds were transferred to Hamas and other groups in the Gaza strip and West Bank and used to carry out terrorist attacks, the suit says.
The lawsuit also alleges that Israeli counterterrorism officers met with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and China's central bank in 2005 and demanded they move to prevent the Bank of China from making further wire transfers, but the demands were ignored.
A representative for Bank of China in New York could not immediately be reached.
Bank wire transfer operations, particularly those moving money from abroad to the U.S. and vice versa, have received attention in the U.S. in recent years.
Last month, Britain's Standard Chartered (STAN.LN) agreed to pay $340 million to New York's state banking regulator to settle claims it violated U.S. trade sanctions by handling transactions for Iranian customers.
New York's Department of Financial Services had accused Standard Chartered of moving $250 billion of transactions through its New York branch for Iranian customers over six years. Federal regulators have also been probing the bank.
The five families named as plaintiffs in the Bank of China suit seek $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages. The eight students died on March 6, 2008, when an alleged member of an Islamic terrorist organization entered the grounds of Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and opened fire on hundreds of students, according to a press release issued by Shurat Hadin, the Israeli law center representing the plaintiffs, on Tuesday.