NEW YORK (Dispatches) -- A federal appeals court in New York has revived part of a $1.68 billion lawsuit against Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, by families of soldiers killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.
By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court judge erred in dismissing claims against Bank Markazi; Banca UBAE SpA, an Italian bank accused of engaging in transactions for Iran; and Clearstream Banking SA, a Luxembourg bank accused of opening accounts for Bank Markazi and UBAE. It upheld the dismissal of claims against JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The plaintiffs sought to recoup bond proceeds allegedly owned by Bank Markazi and held by Clearstream, to partially satisfy $3.8 billion of judgments they were granted against Iran by a federal court.
They accused the banks of fraudulently processing billions of dollars of bond proceeds owed to Bank Markazi, and targeted cash held in a Clearstream account at JPMorgan in New York.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had dismissed the case in February 2015. She said she lacked jurisdiction over Bank Markazi assets located abroad, the plaintiffs had released claims against Clearstream and UBAE, and nothing was left in the Clearstream account for JPMorgan to "turn over.”
In Tuesday’s 72-page decision, Circuit Judge Robert Sack said Forrest reasonably assumed she lacked jurisdiction because the main assets in dispute had been recorded on Clearstream’s books in Luxembourg.
But he said recent court rulings interpreting the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permitted courts in New York to exercise jurisdiction "to recall to New York extraterritorial assets owned by a foreign sovereign.”
Sack ordered Forrest to decide whether she has personal jurisdiction over Clearstream, and whether state or federal law prevents the plaintiffs from recovering bond proceeds.
In April 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a separate case that Bank Markazi must pay nearly $2 billion, which had been frozen, to terrorism victims, and Congress had not exceeded its authority by passing a law making it easier to recover damages.
In April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif denounced U.S. confiscation of $3.5 billion of Bank Markazi assets as an instance of international banditry.