Sept. 11 victims pursue bin Laden family fortune

Sept. 11 victims pursue bin Laden family fortune

Jun 15, 2008 06:35 PM
Associated Press

NEW YORK–As the United States continues its long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, victims of Sept. 11 are in the midst of their own bin Laden pursuit: for his family's vast fortune.

Victims and survivors of the 2001 attack and insurance companies say the bin Laden family failed to cut off ties with their infamous relative after learning he was devising terrorism plots and should be held liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Lawyers for the victims and survivors argued Thursday that the family members are getting off easy in defending against the claims that they turned a blind eye to his evil ways after learning of his terroristic leanings in 1993.

The lawyers asked a judge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to let them seek more information to prove their claim. Their lawsuit targets the Saudi Binladin Group, along with numerous banks, charities and individuals worldwide, alleging that they provided material support and assistance to Al Qaeda before Sept. 11.

The Saudi Binladin Group is a construction and engineering company that has expansive holdings in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden once owned a small stake in the company.

The victims and survivors suffered a setback last month when U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas turned down many of the requests for more information about the financial ties between bin Laden and his family, saying, in essence, that the plaintiffs had become petty in their requests.

Lawyers for the Saudi Binladin Group have said in court papers that bin Laden's 2 per cent shares in the company and another firm, the Mohammad Binladin Co., were sold in June 1993 and put into a trust.

The judge issued his findings on May 21, giving the Saudi Binladin Group one month to produce documents that would show the receipt and subsequent disposition of any dividends, distributions or similar payments arising out of bin Laden's shares of the company between 1993 and 2000.

But he said he believed discovery in the case "must have boundaries," especially given the lengthy amount of time it had taken the case to proceed.

Further requests would likely be denied unless there are "truly exceptional circumstances," he wrote. "Simply put, we are reaching the end of the line.''

The lawyers for Sept. 11 victims cited a 1997 interview in which bin Laden briefly discussed nine visits by his family, including his mother, an uncle and several brothers.

The lawyers said the interview showed that the relationship between bin Laden and his family was cordial, "implying that representatives of his family remained sympathetic to his situation and mission after 1993.''

In their own court papers, lawyers for the Saudi Binladin Group had accused the plaintiffs of "wishful thinking" and "wild speculation.''

The lawyers said the Saudi Binladin Group had helped the United States, building the air base from which U.S. forces operated during the first Gulf War.

The Sept. 11 commission also concluded that the Sudanese government seized bin Laden assets when he left the Sudan in 1996.

As to his shares or the proceeds of them, the lawyers wrote: ``Osama bin Laden never received any buyout payment and has never had access to these funds.''