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Jul 7,2008 – MONTREAL – Four Canadians who say they’re still suffering from shock and trauma after being targeted in Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel two years ago are suing the Lebanese-Canadian Bank in Quebec Superior Court.
They’re alleging the bank helped fund Hezbollah by letting two of its alleged front organizations perform money transfers prior to and during Lebanon’s 33-day war with Israel in 2006.
The front groups in question are the Yousser Company for Finance and Investment and the Martyrs Foundation, both of which have been identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as terrorist financiers.
“The bank knew these organizations were both organs of the Hezbollah . . . and yet continued to let them transfer millions of dollars,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer with Darshan-Leitner & Associates, an Israeli-based firm working for the plaintiffs.
“We deny the allegations,” said Tina Al-Hattouni, LCB’s main representative in Montreal. She said she wouldn’t comment further because bank officials in Lebanon have not yet received notice that a class action suit has been filed. LCB has a Montreal office, but no Canadian branches or accounts.
The four plaintiffs are claiming more than $6 million collectively in damages.
Two of them – Shoshana Hapir and her mother Sara Yefet – had their home completely destroyed in the attack. They say they both suffered nervous shock and psychological trauma. As a result, Hapir, who was pregnant during the attack, struggles to care for her child.
Yefet said she and Hapir are still afraid to leave the house; Hapir can barely even take a shower alone. The two also suffer from nightmares.
“When I wake up in the morning, it feels so real. In my dreams, I can see the Katyushas (rockets) flying,” said Yefet.
The other two plaintiffs – Rochelle and Oz Shalmani – had their home partially destroyed while they were vacationing in Canada. They and their three children continue to suffer traumatic episodes related to the sustained Hezbollah bombing.
Under the Criminal Code, it’s an offence for any organization to deal in property belonging to a terrorist group. It’s also illegal to provide financial services knowing they’ll be used to help commit a terrorist act.
Darshan-Leitner said the Lebanese-Canadian Bank must have known that the Yousser Company and Martyrs Foundation were terrorist financiers.
“By doing a search in Google if you put these names together with Hezbollah you can find plenty of sources talking about how these are organs of Hezbollah.”
Darshan-Leitner said she’s taking civil action in Montreal because the Lebanese courts cannot be trusted.
“If you file a lawsuit against LCB in Lebanon, you can’t do much. We don’t trust the system in a regime where the prime minister would let Hezbollah run major parts of the country. In nondemocratic states, you can’t trust the system.”