Terror Financing Case Puts Israel And China in Spotlight

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Long determined to deprive terrorist groups of funding, Israel has unexpectedly hit the brakes in a U.S. court case centered on allegations that the Bank of China knowingly let cash flow to Palestinian terrorists.

Apparently reluctant to send a former Israeli intelligence official who is a potentially crucial witness to testify in NY, Prime Minister Netanyahu faces accusations that he might let the case unravel rather than put bilateral trade ties with Beijing at risk.

The lawsuit against the Bank of China was brought by the American family of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old killed while on vacation in Tel Aviv in a 2006 suicide attack claimed by the Islamic Jihad faction.

From the horror of the attack grew a complex investigation that has already seen the governments of Iran and Syria convicted in a U.S. court for sponsoring Islamic Jihad.

The family alleges that the Bank of China allowed money from Syria, Iran and elsewhere to pass unhindered through its accounts to the Islamic Jihad, listed by Washington as a terrorist organization, in violation of U.S. financing laws.

The bank denies any wrongdoing and is contesting the case. Contacted in China, the state-controlled company declined to comment further.

An Israeli newspaper alleged  that Netanyahu, looking to pave the way for a high-level visit to China in May, had promised not to let any civil servant, past or present, give testimony which might help the prosecution.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the report.

The former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency has said he was ready to defy Netanyahu and testify himself if the original witness, ex-intelligence official Uzi Shaya, was muzzled.