Victims of the 1983 Beirut bombing, in which 241 American service men were killed by an Iranian-backed suicide bomber, today asked the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to force HSBC USA, N.A., the U.S. branch of banking giant HSBC Holdings, plc, to pay them the entire $2,656,944,877.00, judgment they were awarded by the same court in 2007 for Iran's role in the bombing.
The motion, filed with Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, maintains that HSBC USA is liable for the full judgment because it failed to answer correctly questions posed by the victims' attorneys regarding Iranian government assets the bank may have had as of March of 2008.
Today's motion charges that HSBC USA said, in response to an attachment order filed in April 2008, that it did not have any Iranian assets at that time. However, after a July 2012 report by the Permanent Subcommittee on investigations of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, detailing how HSBC units from around the world systematically sought to avoid U.S. sanctions on dealing with Iranian financial institutions, the victims' attorneys filed additional subpoenas, further exploring the potential that HSBC USA held any Iranian assets that could legally be attached on the victims' behalf. In responding to that subpoena, HSBC USA revealed that it did, in fact, hold funds belonging to Iran during the time it previously said it did not.
Under U.S. law, American victims of terrorism are entitled to enforce their judgment against assets of a State Sponsor of Terrorism according to the State Department's List of State Sponsors of Terrorism and are able to attach U.S.- based assets of the guilty country to help pay judgments awarded in American courts.
The victims' motion maintains, that HSBC USA's 2008 response was "incomplete and evasive" because it "did not disclose the judgment defendant's funds in their possession." Referring to Federal Rules enforcing discovery in legal cases, the victims' motion states, "an evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond." According to the DC Code, if a party fails to answer interrogatories served on him, "...judgment shall be entered against him for the whole amount of the plaintiff's claim..."
The Beirut bombing group constitutes surviving victims and families who lost loved ones in the bombing. Totaling more than 1300 from across the nation, the group has been working through American courts to collect the 2007 judgment and has initiated legal action against other major international financial institutions, which it alleges hold or have held attachable assets of the Government of Iran as they pursue justice against Iran for planning and executing the 1983 bombing.