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Strauss v. Crédit Lyonnais

August 6, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sifton, Senior Judge.


Plaintiffs, United States citizens and the estates, survivors and heirs of deceased United States citizens, who have been or were victims of terrorist attacks in Israel, bring this action against defendant, Crédit Lyonnais, S.A.("Crédit Lyonnais") alleging that defendant is civilly liable to the plaintiffs for damages, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a),*fn1 because it (1) aided and abetted the murder, attempted murder, and serious bodily injury of American nationals located outside the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332; (2) knowingly provided material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization ("FTO")*fn2 in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B*fn3 ; and (3) unlawfully and willfully provided or collected funds with the intention that such funds would be used, or with the knowledge that such funds would be used for terrorist purposes in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339C.*fn4 Now before this Court is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims based on the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Attacks alleged in the Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on the grounds that these claims are time-barred. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion to dismiss claims based on the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Attacks is granted.

Factual Background

Familiarity with the underlying facts of this case is presumed. They are discussed at length in this Court's prior decision in this action, Strauss v. Crédit Lyonnais, S.A., 2006 WL 2862704 (E.D.N.Y. 2006). Only those facts relevant to the present motion are referred to herein. They are drawn from the Amended Complaint and are presumed to be true for the purposes of this motion, as required by applicable case law. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002).

The Terrorist Attacks

In the Amended Complaint, plaintiffs identify thirteen separate attacks between 2001 and 2003 which caused their injuries. Of relevance to the present motion are three attacks which occurred in 2001.

1. [On] December 1, 2001 Nabil Halabiya and Osama Mohammad Id Bahr, two HAMAS suicide bombers, blew themselves up in a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem as part of a coordinated double suicide bombing . . . . Eleven (11) people were murdered and over one hundred (100) people were injured. Bahr had been recruited by Jamal al-Tawil, the chairman of the Al-Islah Charitable Society since 2000. The Al-Islah Charitable Society is one of HAMAS's key charitable front organizations in the West Bank. Amend. Compl., ¶ 308 (the "Eleventh Attack").

2. On August 9, 2001, a HAMAS suicide bomber detonated a bomb packed with nails and metal bolts at the Sbarro's Pizzeria in Jerusalem. Fifteen (15) people were killed in this attack . . . and approximately one hundred and thirty (130) people were injured. The suicide bomber was identified as Izz Ad-Din Shahail Ahmad Al-Masri. Amend. Compl., ¶¶ 360-362 (the "Twelfth Attack").

3. On March 28, 2001, Fadi Attallah Yusuf Amer, a HAMAS suicide bomber, blew himself up outside a gas station near Kfar Sava, killing tow teenagers waiting for a bus . . . . Four (4) other people were injured. Amend. Compl., ¶ 439 (the "Thirteenth Attack").

Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestinians a/k/a Comité Bienfaisance pour la Solidarité avec la Palestiene ("CBSP")

CBSP is a non-profit corporation organized in 1990 with its headquarters in France. According to plaintiffs, CBSP is part of HAMAS's fund-raising infrastructure. In 1997 the Government of Israel declared CBSP an "unlawful organization" because of its affiliation with HAMAS and the support it provided to HAMAS front organizations. Between 2001 and 2003, French authorities also investigated CBSP's alleged terrorist connections. In August 2003, President George W. Bush identified CBSP as a HAMAS fund-raising entity and placed it on the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") list as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist ("SDGT") organization.

CBSP's Accounts at Crédit Lyonnais

CBSP opened accounts at Crédit Lyonnais in 1990. In 2000 the defendant began to notice unusual transfers of funds as described below occurring in CBSP's main accounts. Crédit Lyonnais did not, however, close CBSP's accounts or freeze any funds at that time. In 2002 Crédit Lyonnais began the process of closing CBSP's accounts. In September 2003 Crédit Lyonnais completed the process of closing CBSP's accounts at the bank.

The plaintiffs allege that between 2000 and 2003 Crédit Lyonnais knowingly transferred funds from CBSP to institutions within HAMAS's financial division, including the Orphan Care Society, Al-Islah, the Ramallah Al-Bireh Charitable Society, the Jenin Charity Committee, the Hebron Islamic Association, the Tulkarem Charity Committee, Al-Mujama al-Islami, the Islamic Charitable Society in the Gaza Strip, Al-Salah Society and the Muslim Youth Association of Hebron (collectively, "HAMAS controlled organizations").

Procedural Background

On October 5, 2006, this Court dismissed the claims arising from the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Attacks as barred by the statute of limitations, since those attacks occurred, respectively, on December 1, 2001, August 9, 2001, and March 28, 2001 and the Original Complaint was filed on February 16, 2006, after the expiration of the four year limitations period set forth in 18 U.S.C. ยง ...

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