New York: Arab Bank has reached a settlement with hundreds of US victims of attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories who filed a lawsuit accusing the bank of supporting terrorism.
A spokesperson for the bank confirmed to AFP that an agreement had been reached, but provided no details of the settlement. The amount of the settlement was not immediately revealed.
One of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Michael Elsner, confirmed an agreement had been reached to settle the litigation. "The framework will be finalized over the next few months," he said.
The Jordan-based multinational lender, which is hugely respected in the Middle East, was found liable by a US jury last year for financing terrorism by transferring funds for members of Hamas.
The settlement announcement comes just days before the damages portion of the trial was to begin in a US federal court in Brooklyn, where a jury would have determined how much compensation the Bank would have to pay to 17 plaintiffs.
Originally set for Monday, a federal judge on Friday formally postponed the start of the damages trial until May 2016.
The landmark case involved 300 plaintiffs -- victims and relatives of victims of more than 20 Hamas attacks carried out in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank between 2001 and 2004.
Another 200 American plaintiffs filed separate suits against the bank related to attacks carried out by other armed groups.
In the liability portion of the trial, the jury found the bank liable for 24 Hamas attacks, although Judge Brian Cogan later dismissed two of them.The bank, which has assets worth $46.4 billion, has bitterly contested the September 2014 liability verdict and vowed to appeal in a process that would likely drag on for years.
It complained about "incorrect and prejudicial rulings," and took issue with a string of court rulings, instructions to the jury, and the admission and exclusion of evidence.
At trial, the Bank rejected any suggestion that it knowingly made payments to designated terrorists.
The plaintiffs said the bank transferred more than $70 million to an alleged Saudi terror entity, charities they claimed were a front for Hamas and 11 globally designated terrorist clients.
The court heard that the bank was able to transfer $60,000 to Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004 -- due to a spelling mistake of his name, which was not detected by screening software.
The plaintiffs said the bank violated the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act when the lender served as a conduit for money from a Saudi fund to families of Palestinians who died, including suicide bombers.
They also claimed that Hamas, which the United States officially designates as a terror group, directed the distribution of the money from the Saudi fund.
The defense said Arab Bank provided routine banking services and that no charity -- including the Saudi committee -- to which it transferred funds was on any US, UN or EU blacklist at the time.
It said there was no evidence to prove any money transferred by the bank had been used to finance attacks and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had nothing to do with his client.
The Arab Bank Group has more than 600 branches in 30 countries and a shareholders` equity base of $7.9 billion.