HBL faces liability in terror financing case in US, abetted Al Qaeda

ISLAMABAD: Habib Bank Limited (HBL), the largest bank in Pakistan, is facing secondary liabilities in a US case alleging that it helped finance terrorists and participated in a plot to launch strikes that left 370 people dead or injured.

As a party that "aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance, or who conspires with the person who committed such an act of international terrorism," the bank is subject to liability under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, Judge Lorna G. Schofield stated, according to a Bloomberg report cited by Dawn News.

In three consolidated cases, the plaintiffs "sufficiently" claimed that the attacks were planned or authorised by a "Foreign Terrorist Organization," such as Al Qaeda or syndicates Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, according to report.

"The complaints also show that the bank knowingly and substantially helped al-Qaeda and its proxies evade sanctions and engage in terrorist acts, which satisfies the 'knowing assistance' requirement," the judge said. "The plaintiffs sufficiently allege that the bank knew its customers were integral to al-overall Qaeda's campaign of terrorism, carried out directly and by proxy." The claims, according to Judge Schofield, are sufficient to demonstrate that HBL "engaged in a conspiracy to commit the attacks."

Although none of the claimed banking services offered by HBL "were themselves acts of international terrorism," she rejected the plaintiffs' claims of primary liability, the report adds.

In 2017, regulatory officials fined HBL $225 million, the biggest penalties they had ever issued on a Pakistani bank, for a number of regulatory infractions, according to Dawn news.

The bank has also agreed to cease operations in New York and give up its permit to have a branch there.
Since 1978, the branch has been open for business.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) of New York State severely criticised the bank at the time in a strongly worded press release, adding that it "will not stand by and let Habib Bank sneak out of the US without holding it accountable for putting the integrity of the financial services industry and the safety of our nation at risk."

DFS had made HBL the subject of an enforcement action for 53 different alleged infractions between 2007 and 2017.

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