NY judge drops Binladen Group as 9/11 defendant

Associated Press | Jan 11, 2012

NEW YORK — A construction company founded by Osama bin Laden’s father cannot be sued to recover money for survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks, a judge has ruled, because no evidence has emerged to show the company provided a “financial lifeline” to the terrorist leader after he was removed as a shareholder following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Judge George B. Daniels in Manhattan released a decision Wednesday dismissing the Saudi Binladen Group as a defendant in six lawsuits brought by more than 3,000 survivors of the attacks, relatives, victims’ representatives and insurance carriers. They allege more than 200 defendants provided material support to terrorists.

The defendants include al-Qaida, its members and associates. The suit also names charities, banks, front organizations, terrorist organizations and financiers.

Lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit alleged that proceeds used to support terrorism came from a successor to a construction company founded by bin Laden’s father that is now one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the Arab world.

It said the group maintained a close relationship to bin Laden leading up to the attacks and cited business activities by a now-defunct subsidiary and by an employee who worked from his North Carolina residence as evidence that a U.S. court should have jurisdiction.

It said the company provided “significant support to bin Laden before he was removed as a shareholder in 1993 with knowledge that he was targeting the United States” and continued to provide a “financial lifeline” to him afterwards.

The Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center killed six people and injured more than 1,000. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has claimed a role behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, who is serving life in prison after he was convicted in the 1993 bombing.

Another judge in 2005 allowed the lawsuits to proceed against the Saudi Binladen Group, saying lawyers needed to find out whether the company purposefully directed its activities against the United States. The cases were transferred to Daniels.

Daniels said the business activities of the subsidiary were irrelevant since it had closed by 2000 and other business activities by the group in the United States were sporadic or casual.

At the time of the attacks, the company “had no operations of any kind in the United States, had not undertaken any construction or engineering projects in the United States and had no office in the United States,” the judge said.

He said no evidence had been produced to support claims by the plaintiffs that the Saudi Binladen Group maintained a financial lifeline to bin Laden or that discrepancies in the company’s accounting suggest that a third party provided bin Laden with direct material support via Saudi Binladen Group funds.

Last year, a magistrate judge recommended that al-Qaida be assessed $9.3 billion for the damage done to properties and businesses in the Sept. 11 attacks. Al-Qaida, the organization founded by bin Laden, never responded to the lawsuit and was found in default in 2006. The organization is blamed for orchestrating the attacks.

Bin Laden was killed last May in Pakistan during a raid by U.S. special operations forces.

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