Congress to vote on Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism bill

The House is expected to vote tomorrow, Oct. 1, on a bill that would require the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay an estimated $43 billion to victims of terrorism before the U.S. government would unfreeze Iranian government assets under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The bill, the Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act, was incorporated into the National Defense authorization Act for 2016.

In presenting the bill on the floor of the House, Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Meehan released a video highlighting U.S. Navy diver Robbie Stethem and other Iranian victims.

“We’re putting our victims to the side if we enable these dollars to be returned to Iran without any attachment to them,” Meehan said.

“Look, these are Marines who died protecting our barracks, these are American citizens who were sitting in cafes in Israel, these are people who were hijacked in planes and murdered in cold blood after being tortured. It’s some small measure of accountability that [Iran] should be required to pay [these families] before the very money we now have some influence over is returned.”

Meehan has proposed the Twitter hashtag #NotOneCent for his effort.

Senators Pat Toomey (R, Pa) andMark Kirk (R, Ill) introduced companion legislation in the Senate today, S2086.

“Families of Americans killed by Iranian-backed terrorism have used U.S. laws to take Iran to court and lawfully win approximately $43.5 billion in unsatisfied damages, so if the United States fails to ensure Iran fully pays these judgments before Iranian terror financiers get over $100 billion in sanctions relief, we risk emboldening Iran and other state sponsors of terror to continue targeting and killing more Americans,” Kirk said.

Complete text of the Meehan bill, H.R. 3457, is here.

The Office of Management and Budget today issued a statement that it “strongly opposes” making Iran pay the terrorism claims, arguing that “obstructing implementation of the JCPOA would greatly undermine our national security interests.

President Obama will veto the bill if it makes it through to his desk, the OMB promised.

What will the Iran deal mean for judgment creditors?

At first blush, there’s nothing in the Iran deal that specifically relates to the scores of judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its terrorist actions. Nor were there any leaks during the negotiation process that this was a subject of discussion.

However, after taking a deeper dive into the text of the agreement, a few troubling hints emerge.

First is the inclusion of Assa Corp and Assa Corp Ltd in Attachment 3, the list of individuals and entities scheduled for immediate sanction relief on “Implementation Day” (roughly 2-6 months from now).

Graph 7 on page 70 makes clear that the immediate sanctions relief offered these entities includes

 “unblocking of property and interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction for individuals set out in Attachment 3 of this Annex.”

Does that mean the 40% share in the 650 Fifth Avenue property owned by Assa Corp beneficially for Bank Melli, and currently the subject of federal foreiture proceedings, will be unblocked and released to Assa Corp and transferred back to Iran? If the law is any measure, probably not. But as Secretary Kerry pointed out in presenting this agreement, we are entering a world of new policies.

For example, in several places the agreement commits the United States government to intervening not only with Congress to repeal a broad array of sanctions laws, but also with state and local governments that have passed divestment laws.

Graph 25 of the main agreement states unequivocally:

 If a law at the state or local level in the United States is preventing the implementation of the sanctions lifting as specified in this JCPOA, the United States will take appropriate steps, taking into account all available authorities, with a view to achieving such implementation. The United States will actively encourage officials at the state or local level to take into account the changes in the U.S. policy reflected in the lifting of sanctions under this JCPOA and to refrain from actions inconsistent with this change in policy.

The agreement calls for the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran, and spells out in great detail how and when specific sanctions will be lifted and specific laws mooted through presidential waivers pending legislative repeal.

Here’s where it gets tricky. In §29, the parties commit to:

refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran…

Will Iran make a case, as allowed under the JCPOA, that monetary judgments against it under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act and/or TRIA “adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations?” If so, the agreement gives them the possibility of convening the Joint Commission, where Iran sits along with Russia and China, to seek to impose their will on the United States.

This could spell big potential trouble for judgment creditors.

Congress set to compensate victims of Iranian state terror

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is finalizing legislation that would compensate U.S. diplomats taken hostage in 1979 and their families, using money paid in fines and forfeiture to the US government from businesses that have violated U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“This is a major breakthrough,” attorney Tom Lankford says of a proposal that has been carefully negotiated with the U.S. State Department. “We’ve got many people who are elderly and ailing and very, very ill, and we’re hopeful something is done very, very promptly.”

Under the agreement, surviving hostages would receive about $3 million each, and their spouses $600,000, under a deal brokered with the State Department by Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson and Maryland Democrat Senator Ben Cardin.

The U.S. diplomats taken hostage by revolutionary “students” loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini have faced a legal barrier that has prevented them from getting a judgment against the Iranian regime in U.S. courts.

The U.S. agreement with Iran that led to the captives’ 1981 release, known as the Algiers Accords, prohibits the former hostages from seeking damages from Iran. Against that backdrop, they have lost their court battles, as administrations under different presidents have stood by the terms of that agreement.

The Department of Justice announced last month that it would set aside a portion of the $15.5 billion in sanctions violation fines, penalties and forfeited assets paid by banks, to compensate individuals who have been “harmed” by the actions of Iran, Sudan, and Cuba. These three are the last remaining state sponsors of international terrorism.

In information released in May, DoJ said their first priority would be to compensate individuals “harmed” by the state sponsors between 2004-2012, roughly the period of the sanctions violations committed by the banks assessed with the largest penalties.

But they held the door open to victims of state actions that occurred before or after those years. Last week’s bipartisan agreement at the Senate Foreign Relations committee appears to be aimed at pushing the DoJ to open the window wider.

Will U.S. use BNP Paribas settlement to compensate terror victims?

That’s the key question that came out of Friday’s court hearing in New York, where BNP Paribas was formally sentenced to forfeit $8.9 billion to the feds.

The U.S. government announced a system Friday to compensate people harmed by Sudan, Iran and Cuba using some of the $8.9 billion forfeited by France’s largest bank for violating U.S. economic sanctions by processing transactions for clients in blacklisted countries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein revealed the plan after U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield formally sentenced BNP Paribas consistent with the bank’s guilty plea last year. She said the bank must turn over the forfeiture and pay a $140 million fine. It also pleaded guilty to state charges.

Source: US seeks to compensate victims of Sudan, Iran and Cuba – The Washington Post

But any of the money actually reach terror victims?

Maybe not.

From the same article:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio noted in a release that $448 million of the BNP forfeiture will go to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and $447 million to the city, some of which will be used to equip all police officers with smartphones.

And for more than a dozen victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa who showed up in court, the announcement that the feds wanted them to file a claim on the funds at was a let down.

“Total disappointment,” said Marina Kirima, a Seattle resident who worked at the embassy in Kenya when it was bombed. “It’s like starting all over again.”

Justice for Victims of Terrorism

This is the new blog of the Fleming Timmerman Law Group, pllc. We are located in Washington, DC and have been working to help victims of Iranian regime state-sponsored terrorism for the past 18 years.Tim and Ken

Ken Timmerman began working to identify Islamic regime assets on behalf of victims of terrorism in 1997. Tim Fleming joined a consortium of lawyers representing victims of the 9/11 attacks in 2003.

In the picture above, Ken is on the right and Tim is on the left. That’s how we are in real life, as well – a political odd-couple in the fight for justice on behalf of the victims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.