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The Shurat Hadin – Legal Action Center told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the key witness and former Israeli defense establishment member in the terror financing case against the Bank of China is sending them a letter that he is “inclined to testify” in the case despite possible opposition by the Israeli government.
The witness, who court documents name as Uzi Shaya, has already filed an affidavit in the case stating that he was present at key meetings between Israeli and Chinese officials, including officials from the Bank of China, in 2005 in which the Israeli officials provided evidence and notice to the bank and to China that Islamic Jihad and Hamas were using the bank to launder and transfer funds.
Shaya’s testimony is a primary source of evidence which could disprove the bank’s claim that it did not have notice of the terror financing activities until it was sued.
The case was all over the headlines in July when reports came out that the Israeli governmentmight have pressured Shaya not to testify in the case in order to appease China.
According to the reports, China threatened to cancel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to China if Israel did not prevent Shaya from testifying.
Shurat Hadin, who represents 22 families in the case, said that Shaya’s letter will indicate that he has faced potential opposition from the Israeli government about testifying, but that he believes he can testify anyway.
Despite that belief, Shaya explained to Shurat Hadin that he wished to give the government time to formulate an official position, particularly since the government might, in the end, endorse his testifying.
In July, the bank’s lawyers said that maybe the Israeli government was withholding Shaya’s testimony because they believed his testimony would be inaccurate – though the court appeared to reject this out of hand.
The central question of whether Shaya will testify is being reviewed by the government, according to an official letter response to the court from July 12 by deputy director of the international department of the State Prosecutor’s office, Yitzhak Blum.
The court expressed some frustration that the letter did not give any deadline for an answer and indicated it would be responding to Mr. Blum’s letter by requesting a deadline.
Previously, Shurat Hadin head Nitsana Dershan-Leitner told the Post that she could be compelled by the court to testify that the government broke its promise to offer Shaya (she referred to him only as the witness, but his name appears in the public record) as the key witness to testify about having put China and the bank on notice at the 2005 meeting.
As of Friday, the family of terror victim Daniel Wultz, also with a parallel case against the bank, represented by the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, had not yet provided any updates on the matter.