British Bank Hid Iran’s Assets, Families Claim

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The British bank Standard Chartered helped Iran hide the billions of dollars it owes for sponsoring a 1983 bombing in Lebanon, families claim in Federal Court.
     Hezbollah carried out the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which left 241 U.S. service members dead and injured many more, making it the deadliest state-sponsored terrorist attack until Sept. 11, 2001.
     To date, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has issued more than $9.5 billion in judgments against Iran for the bombing.
     A group of victims and their survivors who won $2.6 billion in 2007 filed suit this week against Standard Chartered in the Southern District of New York. Their names appear in three, single-spaced columns taking up four pages of exhibits to the 32-page complaint.
     To date, Iran has refused to pay it and rejected its legitimacy in state-run media.
     Estates for the victims pushed throughout 2008 to seek out Iranian assets through the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, and U.S. federal courts.
     “By virtue of those executions and restraints, plaintiffs have to date successfully restrained in New York substantial assets belonging to Bank Markazi, an Iranian agency and instrumentality,” the complaint states. “Those assets were blocked by President Obama’s February 5, 2005 Executive Order 13599.”
     But the estates claim that Standard Chartered helped Iran duck payment by agreeing to “strip” information about the originators and beneficiaries of more than 60,000 wire-transfer transactions.
     On Aug. 6, 2012, New York state financial regulators threatened to revoke Standard Charter’s license and called it “a rogue institution” over allegations that it conspired with Iran to avoid U.S. sanctions.
     At one point, Standard Charter’s CEO for the Americas worried the bank would suffer “catastrophic reputational damage” and “serious criminal liability” from this alleged relationship, the estate says.
     “Amazingly, SCB’s Group Executive Director in England caustically responded to those concerns by stating, ‘You f—ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians,” according to the complaint. (Redaction in original)
     Much of the complaint delves into the investigation by New York regulators, which resulted in a 2011 order finding that the bank laundered hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the complaint.
     On Aug. 14, 2012, The New York Times reported that Standard Chartered agreed to settle these claims for $340 million, according to the complaint.
     The victims’ estates seek punitive damages for tortious interference with the collection of a money judgment.
     They are represented by Liviu Vogel with Salon Marrow Dyckman.

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