January 24, 2005
Al Rajhi 9/11 claim dismissed
Federal judge clears Saudi bank and criticises 'Golden Chain' document
Claims made against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of other defendants over the 9/11 attacks have been dismissed by a US judge after preliminary applications. The Saudi bank, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation, which had sued the Wall Street Journal Europe over a 2001 article suggesting it was under suspicion of funding terrorism, is one of the defendants now struck out of the case.
In Burnett v Al Baraka relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks, insurers and others are suing over 200 defendants for multi-billion dollar damages, alleging that the defendants played a part in assisting the attacks. Several of the defendants applied to have the claims against them dismissed as disclosing no reasonable basis for a claim.
Judge Richard Casey of the New York District Court ruled last week that the claim against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must fail on grounds of state immunity. As for Al Rajhi, the judge found that the plaintiffs had not offered facts to support their allegations that Al Rajhi “had to know” that 4 Saudi charities were supporting terrorism. Knowledge was an essential ingredient of any viable claim. There is no liability on a bank for injuries caused by money passing through it on routine banking business.
The plaintiffs had relied on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism regulations of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, but the judge pointed out that the plaintiffs had not alleged that there were any “know your customer” rules which Al Rajhi had failed to follow in respect of the charities’ accounts.
In ruling that there was no viable claim against Al Rajhi, the judge reached the same conclusion as Judge Robertson of the Washington District Court in an earlier decision known as ‘Burnett II’. Claims against the Saudi American Bank, Al Baraka Investment Co and the Arab Bank were all struck out on a similar basis. Among the other defendants released from the case were the Saudi Minister of Defence and its ambassador to the UK, Prince Turki.
The judgment is also notable for its assessment of the evidential value of a document which has cropped up in Al Qaeda-related litigation here, the so-called “Golden Chain” document, which Judge Casey described as ‘a document with serious foundational flaws… The “Golden Chain” does not say what the Plaintiffs argue it says. It is only a list of names found in a charity’s office.’
Click on the icon below for the full judgment.