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July 23, 2012

HSBC Senate Report: 9/11 Families praise report on HSBC activities

On Behalf of the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism

9/11 Families Praise Senate Report on HSBC Activities

 Says HSBC Exposed U.S. Financial System to

Terrorist Financing and Money Laundering Risks

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism praised the bi-partisan report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security, on its frank and thorough evaluation of global banking giant HSBC and its U.S. affiliates. Last week, the Subcommittee released its findings from a year-long investigation into HSBC and said in its public release that HSBC had "exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls."[i]

The 330-page report revealed extensive failures of the bank's AML controls and lax enforcement of U.S. banking rules that ultimately exposed the U.S. to Mexican drug money and terrorism financing risks. While the 9/11 Families are concerned about the flow of money to any terrorist group, including narco-terrorists, they particularly praised the report for exposing HSBC's apparent lack of willpower in the face of competing divisions in the bank that stood to benefit from a relationship with Al Rajhi and that pressured HSBC to maintain ties to Al Rajhi Bank regardless of terrorist financing risks.[ii]

Al Rajhi Bank is Saudi Arabia's largest private bank. After the 9/11 attacks, "evidence began to emerge that Al Rajhi Bank and some of its owners had links to organizations associated with financing terrorism, including that one of the bank's founders was an early financial benefactor of al Qaeda." [iii]

Al Rajhi Bank was originally named as a defendant in the case In re Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment & Development Corp., et al., filed by family members and survivors of 9/11 on Aug. 15, 2002. That case is currently being litigated in U.S. Federal Court, the Southern District of New York. While Al Rajhi Bank was released from the case in 2005 after a ruling regarding the court's jurisdiction over the bank - not on any finding of fact indicating culpability-  that ruling is currently under appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

"This report brings us one step closer to exposing the truth and holding accountable those whose actions have enabled, and continue to enable, heinous acts of terror," said Terry Strada of New Vernon, N.J., widow of Tom Strada, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. "There should be tremendous consequences for the actions taken by HSBC, and I applaud the many whose efforts helped bring the truth to light."

"What is really disturbing to me, based on my reading of this report, is how clear it is that, even after HSBC discontinued handling financial affairs for Al Rajhi Bank due to terrorists financing risks, divisions of HSBC kept circumventing that decision," commented Sharon Premoli of Vermont, who was trapped by the collapse of the World Trade Center and maintains the advocacy website, www.JusticeAgainstTerrorism.org. "Ultimately, HSBC seems to have folded under pressure from Al Rajhi and  reinstated the bank as a client—not due to any change of conduct by the bank but because Al Rajhi threatened to take its lucrative business elsewhere."

"Now the HSBC head of compliance is stepping down. That's fine, but it's time for U.S. courts to allow us to face Al Rajhi and the other defendants released from our case. We just want to go into court and lay out our evidence about how 9/11 was able to happen and let the whole world judge for itself," said Premoli. She concluded, "Thank you Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn." Senator Levin is the chair of the Subcommittee, and Senator Coburn is the Ranking Minority Member.

In another development in the case of the 9/11 families, former Senators Bob Graham (FL) and Bob Kerrey (NE) provided declarations on the families' behalf in February that were filed in Federal Court for the Southern District of New York. These declarations strongly disagreed with papers filed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission that claimed they had been "exonerated" of any connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Senators, who both held leadership roles in the investigations by the U.S. government into the 9/11 attacks, urged the Court to reinstate the Kingdom and the Saudi High Commission into the ongoing federal litigation (In re Terrorist Attacks) and encouraged the Court to allow a thorough investigation of any connection between the two and al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks.

The 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism
This group is comprised of more than 6,600 family members, survivors and those killed in the 9/11 attacks. They are united in the cause of pursuing justice and deterring future terrorist attacks. To do so, they are using the civil legal system to pursue those who allegedly financed and provided support for the cowardly terrorist attacks. The case is In re Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment & Development Corp., et al., Case No. 03-CV-9849 (GBD); In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03 MDL 1570. The families are represented by civil litigation firm Motley Rice LLC.

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[ii] "V. Al Rajhi Bank: Disregarding Links to Terrorist Financing," U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs and Terrorists Financing: HSBC Case History, U.S. Senate, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, July 17, 2012.

[iii] Ibid, p. 188.