- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Arab Bank will close its branch in New York, where it faces lawsuits saying it supported terrorism by funneling donations to Palestinian suicide bombers and their families.

The closure was announced yesterday from the Central Bank of Jordan, which oversees the operations of banks in the kingdom. Arab Bank is Jordan’s largest financial institution.

The bank is owned by the prominent Palestinian Shoman family, and its shareholders include the Saudi Oger Co., which is owned by former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The Central Bank statement, made available to the Associated Press, did not refer to the suits filed in a federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., by different groups of victims of suicide bombings in Israel.

It said the closure decision, reached at an Arab Bank board meeting three days ago, was in line with the institution’s “vision and strategy in the medium and long term to focus operations on the Arab region and Europe.”

It added: “The climate of operating in the United States at present is not expedient with the bank’s strategy and vision.”

Arab Bank and Central Bank officials declined to comment.

The statement said “serious discussions” were under way with unspecified “supervisory sides in New York and Washington” about the closure.

It stressed that the decision would have little effect on Arab Bank because its New York assets were less than 2 percent of the bank’s global holdings.

Central Bank governor Umayya Toukan was quoted as saying he was informed about the closure, which he said would take place in an “organized manner with full transparency and in coordination with concerned supervisory sides in the United States.”

He did not say when the closure would occur or how long it would take.

In his latest expression of support, he said Arab Bank since its inception 75 years ago has played “a unique role in the process of development on the national and regional levels.”

Last year, three groups of suicide-bombing victims in Israel and their families filed suits in a Brooklyn federal court against Arab Bank, saying that the institution moved donations from Saudi Arabia to militant Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The bank has denied the accusation.

Arab Bank, which was founded in Jerusalem in 1930, has 30 branches across the Middle East, Europe, the United States, Australia and North Africa. Trading in its shares often leads the Amman Stock Exchange.

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