In 1996 Yaron Ungar and his pregnant wife were machine-gunned to death in Israel. Their survivors claimed that the attack was carried out by members of Hamas acting under the command of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In July 2004 a trial was concluded and a verdict against the PLO was entered for $116M. This was a default judgment, with the Palestinians refusing to participate.
Getting a verdict is one thing. Getting the money is another. And today the PLO and PA lost another round (having apparently decided to belatedly defend themselves).
The plaintiffs had located $100M in a New York bank that were frozen as a result of the verdict, and a battle ensued as to who the rightful owner of the funds was. The plaintiffs claimed that the Palestinian pension funds whose names were on the accounts were mere alter egos to the PA and PLO. Plaintiffs claimed, in essence, a form of money laundering being used to hide the money.
Today, the Appellate Division (First Department) ruled in Strachman v Palestinian Auth. that the issue of whether the pension funds were an alter ego or not was a jury question. The Palestinians, obviously, didn’t want this matter tried before a jury. Machine gun terror attacks don’t seem to go down so well with juries, and they obviously hoped to have a better chance with a single judge.
There was one dissent, with Justice Tom believing this was for the bench, and not the jury. Expect the matter to up to New York’s high court.
- $116m awarded in terrorism suit (Boston Globe, 1/29/04)
- Palestinians Ask U.S. To Intervene in Suits Over Terrorist Attacks (Washington Post 2/12/08)
- Judgment upheld in terror case (ProJo.com, 5/16/09)
- Appeals panel sends terror case back to lower court (Projo.com, 3/29/10)