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Did Hamas use Chinese bank to launder money?

September 29, 2013 17:46 IST

A leading Chinese bank may have been used by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and its allies to launder money for their global operations, according to Israeli intelligence reports.

Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet has uncovered the existence of a sophisticated international network to finance the activities, mainly of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and also transfer of funds to accounts in India and Turkey, the Ha'aretz daily on Sunday said, citing the report.

The revelations are result of an ongoing legal battle between the Bank of China and family of a victim of a terror attack in Israel's capital Tel Aviv.

Daniel Wultz, an American Jewish teenager, was killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in 2006 and the family has filed a lawsuit against the Bank of China this summer for damages. According to the suit which was filed with the backing of the Israeli government, the bank was being used to launder terrorist funds and the authorities in China ignored the Israeli warnings.

The suit revealed transfers of millions of dollars to the Bank of China in the last decade.

However, under pressure from China, Israel backtracked and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed his officials not to testify in the case against the Chinese bank, the paper said.

The Shin Bet probe held in February and March of 2012 also linked Chinese banks to the transfer of money which was used to support the families of Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails. The security agency also seized numerous documents of the funds transferred and a list of accounts in which the money was deposited in China, Ha'aretz reported.

The network was unearthed largely based on the testimony of Amar Mer'i, a West Bank based money changer, who had previously transferred money from labourers in Gaza to their families, but had stopped this activity under pressure from the Palestinian authority.

The Shin Bet arrested Mer'i at a border crossing in February 2010 in possession of $126,000 and 80,000 Israeli shekels in cash. Mer'i's information led to a complicated web unearthing his contacts from Musmus, Mohammed Agbaria and his cousin Mohammed Abu Shahab, the report said.

Most of the money would be transferred to accounts in the Bank of China but a transfer was also made to a Citibank account in New York and another to a bank in Alabama. Several transfers were made to a HSBC bank in Hong Kong and some money was even transferred to accounts in India and Turkey, it said, without giving further details.

Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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