Estate of Eitam Henkin v. Kuveyt Katilim Bankasi A.S., No. 19-cv-05394-BMC (E.D.N.Y. July 28, 2023) [click for opinion]

In 2015 and 2018, Hamas, a terrorist organization, killed multiple victims in terrorist attacks in the West Bank. Following the attacks, the victims' estates, heirs, and other attack-survivors commenced a civil action against Kuveyt Turk Katilim Bankasi, A.S., a Turkish bank ("the Bank"), alleging violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a), as amended by the Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism Act (the "ATA").

Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the Bank aided and abetted Hamas in the attacks by maintaining foreign bank accounts for three parties with connections to Hamas: (1) the Foundation of Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief ("IHH"), Hamas's alleged "primary Turkish fundraiser"; (2) Islamic University Gaza ("IUG"), an alleged "Hamas institution"; and (3) Jihan Yaghmour, a "high-ranking H[amas] operative and convicted murderer." Plaintiffs further alleged that the Bank maintained a "Eurodollar" account for IUG, through which it cleared and settled Eurodollar funds-transfers for IUG in New York.

The Bank—headquartered in Turkey and with no presence in the United States—moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. In response, Plaintiffs argued that the Bank's correspondent bank accounts in New York were sufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction.

The court granted the Bank's motion to dismiss, reasoning that Plaintiffs' vague and conclusory allegations were insufficient to demonstrate a causal relationship between the Bank's contacts with the United States and the terrorist attacks giving rise to their claims. Specifically, Plaintiffs failed to allege that Hamas itself held an account at the Bank or to otherwise identify the account numbers for IHH, IUG, or Yaghmour. Moreover, Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege that the funds cleared and settled by the Bank were actually used or tied to the attacks, specifically reasoning for the IUG funds that "we have no idea whether those funds were used to pay IUG professors or one of the innumerable other legitimate costs incurred by a university or whether they were passed on to Hamas and used to fund terrorist attacks."

Finally, the court further denied Plaintiffs' request for jurisdictional discovery, finding that such discovery would amount to a "fruitless . . . 'fishing expedition'" given Plaintiffs' vague jurisdictional allegations.

Desirée Hunter-Reay of the San Francisco office contributed to this summary.