Daily Israel Report

Justice Ministry 'Betrays' Bank of China Terror Case

Justice Ministry succeeds in quashing a subpoena on key witness in US case, after backtracking support over Chinese pressure.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 8/11/2014, 10:37 AM

Bank of China (file)
Bank of China (file)
Reuters

The Israeli Justice Ministry has succeeded in quashing a subpoena for a key witness to appear in the Bank of China (BOC) court case, a case being fought in New York to win justice for Daniel Wultz, an American terror victim killed in Tel Aviv in 2006.

The case investigating BOC's role in funding terror attacks requested testimony from key witness and former intelligence officer Uzi Shaya last June 26. Last November 15, the Justice Ministry submitted a motion to quash the subpoena on Shaya in a move some have labeled "sabotage."

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled last month that Shaya had immunity, reports the Courthouse News Service. In response, the Wultz family's lawyers urged a reconsideration, accusing the Israeli government of a "stunning personal betrayal" motivated by a "politically expedient" gesture to the Chinese government.

The motion for reconsideration was rejected by Scheindlin last Wednesday in an eight-page opinion, in which she wrote "while I recognize that plaintiffs have devoted time and resources to this case and relied on Israel's purported 'commitments' to provide full cooperation - including testimony - I cannot compel Shaya to testify over Israel's valid claim of immunity."

Scheindlin added that the family can try to gain Shaya's voluntary testimony on "information unrelated to acts taken or knowledge obtained in his official capacity."

Backtracking on support

Documents filed in the case last December showed Wultz's parents were in personal communication with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, former National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, as well as Shaya, and received support from the Israeli government in their case.

This support included critical evidence such as bank account numbers, details about BOC money laundering, and the content of discussions between Israeli and Chinese officials. Furthermore, Shaya was offered as a key witness, a promise reiterated in a personal phone call from Netanyahu's office to the Wultz family in April 2012.

However, the documents indicated that Netanyahu succumbed to pressure from the Chinese government and agreed to pull Shaya as a witness; Israeli ties with China have been growing rapidly.

Continuing with the case

In response to the decision last week Lee Wolosky, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner which is representing the Wultz family, wrote "the court provided a clear roadmap for Mr. Shaya's voluntary deposition, and we look forward to proceeding on that basis."

"Whether or not Mr. Shaya testifies, compelling evidence exists that Bank of China ignored warnings that it was providing material support to a terrorist organization. We will demonstrate at trial that it did so knowingly, despite Israeli warnings, without regard to the risk that funds transferred through its accounts would be used to kill and maim innocent civilians," added Wolosky.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat Hadin (Israel Law Center) which in January petitioned the Supreme Court to have the Justice Ministry provide testimony in the BOC case, has been particularly critical of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's role in the case.

"The evidence in Israel's possession is crucial to the efforts by the families of terror victims to attain justice, and hold the BOC accountable for facilitating the funding of Palestinian terror groups and their murder of innocent Jews," argued Darshan-Leitner.

According to the Shurat Hadin head, the "Minister of Injustice" Livni "has cowered to the Chinese Government and forgotten these Israeli families."