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October 26, 2014 – Two key witnesses whose knowledge of the Bank of China’s alleged former money-laundering for Palestinian terrorist groups could break open the major case, were recently located in Belgium, according to a report in the La Libre Belgique newspaper.
The two were identified as Said al-Shurafa, an alleged former Palestinian terrorist, and his wife, Reem al-Shurafa.
The Jerusalem Post received an authenticated English translation of the article (the story has not been reported yet in English or Hebrew media) filed by the Bank of China in the New York federal court case against it.
The plaintiffs in the case – the Wultz family who lost their son Daniel Wultz at the Rosh Ha’ir restaurant terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in 2006 – have asked the Belgian government to compel the two to testify in the case.
The La Libre Belgique article, as well as a New York court document affidavit of former Israeli government agent Shlomo Matalon, accuse Said of being “an operative and agent” of both Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
The report and the Matalon affidavit say that between approximately the early 2000s and 2008, funds were transferred from Iran, Syria and other places to Said’s account with the bank in Guanzhou, China, where he lived at the time.
Said then transferred the funds to Islamic Jihad and Hamas, according to the report and the affidavit.
According to the article and a letter from the Bank of China to the New York court, the Wultz family, including their lawyer, Lee Wolosky, lost a first shot to go after the Shurafas in Belgium itself.
Subsequently, the report and a letter from the Wultzes’ lawyers indicate that the plaintiffs are trying to file a Letter Request for Judicial Assistance to Belgium to present the Shurafas for testimony relating to the New York court case.
The La Libre Belgique report says that the newspaper spoke to Said and his Belgian lawyer, who dismissed any charges and any legal process to compel him to testify as doomed to fail after winning the first round in Belgian courts.
It also said that Said was deported from China in 2008 and received asylum and has been living in Belgium since 2011.
The plaintiffs’ request says that Reem also held an account with the bank that was allegedly used similarly to Said’s account.
The bank has opposed the plaintiffs’ request and demanded that, if it is granted, that it be permitted to cross-examine the Shurafas.
The Shurafas could be even more important to the case since previous attempts by the Wultz family and by Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center, an NGO that represents 22 other plaintiffs in a parallel case, to get former Israeli government agent Uzi Shaya to testify against the bank on their behalf in New York have been defeated after a dramatic legal battle.
In July, the federal court in New York delivered a major blow to the case, granting Israel’s request to block Shaya from testifying on behalf of the families.
The ruling was a significant blow to the case because the testimony of the agent, Shaya – a unique eyewitness to critical dealings with the bank – was considered a smoking gun that allegedly would prove the bank had known it was involved in terror financing.
Shaya and other Israeli officials met with the bank in 2005, providing them with evidence of money- laundering and asking the bank to close the problematic accounts, but the bank refused to do so, court documents say.
The plaintiffs allege that Israel turned its back on them in November 2013, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to China, out of concern that the testimony would harm its business interests there.
The Prime Minister’s Office, led by former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror, has said its reasons for blocking Shaya from testifying relate to the preservation of classified security information and international cooperation in fighting terror financing.
Shurat Hadin is also pursuing other avenues, such as subpoenaing former US House of Representatives majority leader Eric Cantor to testify about talks with top Israeli officials regarding the case.