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There is easy money to be made in Manhattan. If you want some big bucks, you can claim you have been wronged by a foreign country or a rich man who lives overseas. You can sue him in New York because the United States claims de facto jurisdiction over the entire world due to the fact that bank transactions and communications from just about everywhere go through the U.S.
Because of easy access to friendly judges, New York City is the vulture fund capital of the world. A vulture fund preys on countries or businesses that are in distress and likely to default or that have already defaulted. It buys up bonds on the secondary market for pennies on the dollar and later it sues for full face value of the bonds. Vulture funds are one of the ugliest faces of predatory capitalism.
Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2001. In August 2013 the Federal U.S. District Judge in New York, Thomas P. Griesa, ruled that it would have to pay two vulture hedge funds the full value of Argentinean debt that the funds had reportedly obtained for around twenty cents on the dollar. One of the funds was Elliott Management Corporation, which is owned by billionaire Paul Singer. Singer recently has been the principal financial supporter of the Senator Marco Rubio presidential run.
To compel compliance, Griesa blocked Argentina from paying interest to the holders of the 93% of government bonds that it had already restructured without first paying off the vulture funds, essentially freezing the Argentine economy and making it impossible for it to borrow on international capital markets. In effect, the Argentinian people were required to experience considerable pain to benefit a New York billionaire who had pulled a shady maneuver to make more money.
Vulture fund litigation against struggling countries through New York courts has been successfully pursued against Peru and a number of African nations but it also has been employed against corporations in the U.S. itself, to include Delphi Automotive. Delphi was compelled to pay Singer, who made a profit of over 3,000%, for its corporate bonds that had defaulted as a consequence of the 2008 recession.
Even better than bonds, if you can claim that the sucker about to be fleeced has some kind of terrorist connection, no matter how flimsy, you can really go for broke as everyone really hates terrorists and U.S. law permits anyone to file a lawsuit if “international terrorism” can plausibly be cited. The Federal Court for the Southern District of Manhattan has become the clearing house for suing the pants off of any number of foreign governments and individuals with virtually no requirement that the suit have any merit.
In February 2015, a lawsuit initiated by the Israeli government supported lawfare group Shurat HaDin led to the conviction of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization of liability for terrorist attacks in Israel between 2000 and 2004. The New York Federal jury awarded damages of $218.5 million, but under a special feature of the Anti-Terrorism Act the award was automatically tripled to $655.5 million. Shurat HaDin states that it is “bankrupting terror” but the reality is that if it obtains the full award or anything close to it the Palestinian government will collapse, producing even more chaos in the Middle East.
In their suit the mostly Israeli plaintiffs had claimed that the PA and PLO had enabled and encouraged the terrorism, even though there was no actual evidence that any Palestinian leaders were involved in planning or approving the incidents cited. Presiding Judge George Daniels assisted the plaintiff case by admitting evidence from Israeli military courts, where there is little in the way of due process for those who are accused, demonstrating once again that legal protections in the U.S. very much depend on who is doing what to whom.
The Palestinian verdict came shortly after another federal court ruling in Brooklyn which found the Jordan-based Arab Bank liable for knowingly supporting two dozen acts of terrorism committed between 2001 and 2004 in or around Israel by members of Hamas.
During the course of the trial, the plaintiffs, mostly American citizens, argued that each of the 24 attacks was conducted by members of Hamas and that the bank knowingly routed money from Saudi Arabian charities to the families of suicide bombers in the West Bank. The plaintiffs stated that this provided an incentive for the bombings. Matthew Levitt, an official of the pro-Israel think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), was provided as an expert witness, stating that the Saudi charity’s “primary purpose” was to support the families of “terrorist operatives.”
The Arab Bank was fully compliant with guidelines mandated by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to ensure that no accounts were connected to terrorists, but Judge Brian Cogan and jury though that to be irrelevant, determining that the bank had been “deliberately indifferent” in its actions.
But the indignities suffered by the PLO and the Arab Bank at the hands of the U.S. judiciary pale in comparison to the most recent court case involving Iran. In early March the federal court in Manhattan ruled that Iran should have to pay $11 billion to the families of those who were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. The lawsuit had been filed by Fiona Havlish, whose husband had died in the attack.
It was alleged in court that several of the claimed 9/11 terrorists had stopped off in Iran prior to the attack in New York, a story that has been circulating for some time without any actual evidence to support it. The plaintiff’s lawyers conceded that they could not prove that the visit had taken place as the Iranian government had colluded in not stamping the passports as the men entered and left the country. Iranian ally Hezbollah was also named in the case, with the plaintiff claiming that Hezbollah had provided the hijackers with training.
The case was a continuation of a suit filed by Havlish in 2011. At that time Judge George B. Daniels (yes, the same man who ruled against the Palestinians) determined that Iran had been directly involved in 9/11. Daniels at that time ruled that Iran should pay Havlish and 46 other plaintiffs $7 billion and when they didn’t comply he ordered in 2014 the seizure of a building in Manhattan worth $500 million that was reportedly owned by Iran.
It might also be added, parenthetically, that Saudi Arabia, the home of nearly all the alleged 9/11 attackers and the source of much al-Qaeda funding, has also been sued in a New York presided over by the same Judge Daniels but action against it has been blocked by the State Department, which has declared sovereign immunity protection. It makes one long to read those 28 pages on the Saudis that were excised from the 9/11 commission report.
The contention that Iran was somehow involved in 9/11 is ludicrous and not believed by any intelligence agency associated with the U.S. government, but that apparently makes no difference to a Bill Clinton appointed federal judge in Manhattan and a gullible jury that have been heavily propagandized by the media. The Iranians, Palestinians and Jordanians were asked to prove a negative, that they had not done anything wrong and were not involved, making their trials foregone conclusions as soon as they began. The most disturbing thing about the activism of the federal courts in New York is the insight into how America’s judiciary has been manipulated and politicized. If you are a foreigner of any kind but most particularly an Iranian or Palestinian or indeed an Arab or Muslim and you are being tried in a court in New York City you might just as well save your money and not seek to find a lawyer to defend yourself. If a slimy vulture fund owner wants your money chances are he will get it. And if an even completely ridiculous attempt to tie you into terrorism or terrorism support is made you will be railroaded by the system.