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PA exposes banking technology companies to potential criminal and civil liability

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |

As Palestinian Media Watch exposed, the Palestinian Authority is now providing terrorists and their families with specifically designated ATM cards, as a means to implement its “Pay-for-Slay” policy. In doing so, the PA has now dragged at least two multinational companies - BPC Banking Technologies and VISA/VISA PLUS - into its pugnacious program and potentially exposed them to both criminal and civil liability.

Since Palestinian Media Watch assumes that neither of these companies are even aware of the fact that their technology is being used to fund, incentivize and reward terror and terrorists, PMW has written to both companies urging them to take action in order to avert the potential damage.

Worldwide, ATM (Automated Teller Machine) technology is provided by a number of companies. In the PA, two such technology providers are BPC Banking Technologies (a Russian owned company, registered in Switzerland, with US branches) and VISA/VISA PLUS.

Announcing the launch of the “National Switch” – the system that supports the use, inter alia, of ATM cards - a financial news website noted:

“The collaboration of BPC Banking Technologies with PMA resulted in a record breaking time of the launch – 18 months – building the whole national switch system from scratch.”

[Finextra Website - 23 July 2015]

The report further quoted the then Head of the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), Jihad Al-Wazir, who said:

“Palestine Monetary Authority highly appreciates to partner with BPC Banking Technologies. The path from the idea of National Switch in the country to its implementation was straight and short due to our partner’s expertise and dedication to the project.”

[Finextra Website - 23 July 2015]

A promotional video posted on the Facebook page of the Tubas post office showed not only the ease of using the new ATM cards but also the fact that the cards use VISA/VISA PLUS technology and ATM.

Posted text: “The activation of the ATM cards of the prisoners, the family members of the Martyrs, and the wounded at the postal bank began today [July 5, 2021]”

The video in the post shows a man withdrawing money from an ATM with the logo of the Visa Plus interbank ATM network on it.

[Facebook page of the Tubas Post Office, July 5, 2021]

The 2018 Taylor Force Act found that the PA’s terror reward policy “is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” Facilitating the payment of funds, which both incentivize and reward terror, would most certainly be considered to be a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2339A - Providing material support to terrorists.

The PA has implemented its “Pay-for-Slay” policy since its creation. As part of the policy, the PA pays monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners (including murderers) and released terrorists and allowances to wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists (including the families of suicide bombers). It is estimated, that in 2020 alone, the PA spent at least 750 million shekels ($228,618,225) on the “Pay-for-Slay” payments.

Since exposed by PMW in 2011, different steps have been taken, domestically and internationally, to combat the policy.

Most recently, Israel passed anti-terror legislation in which it prohibited the performance of any activity with property, including a banking activity, undertaken for the purpose of rewarding a person for the commission of a terrorist offence.

Based on the anti-terror legislation and noting the PA practice to make its “Pay-for-Slay” payments through the bank accounts of the terrorists in the commercial banks, PMW wrote to the banks and the commercial banks closed the accounts of more than 35,000 terrorists.

In an attempt to circumvent the Anti-terror legislation, the PA recently announced the distribution of ATM cards through which the terrorists and their families will be able to withdraw their terror rewards at their own leisure, from Palestinian post offices.

Last year, when the PA was preparing to establish a new bank just for disseminating money to terrorists and their families, PMW wrote to VISA (and Mastercard) warning them of the potential danger of the PA using their services to reward terror and terrorists. While the terror bank never came to fruition, it would appear that the PA nonetheless found the way to drag VISA/VISA PLUS into the quagmire.

By providing the terrorists and their families with ATM cards that use BPC and VISA/VISA PLUS technology, in the knowledge that the terrorists and their accounts are personae non gratae in the commercial banking world, the PA has intentionally dragged BPC and VISA/VISA PLUS into the PA’s terror reward program.

In order to bring this subject to the attention of BPC and VISA/VISA PLUS, PMW has written to them informing them of the PA misuse of their technologies and urging them to take action to avoid the abuse. [Click here to see the letter sent to BPC and click here to see the letter sent to VISA/VISA PLUS]

If these companies do not act swiftly to prevent the continued use of their technologies to support terror funding and the payment of rewards for terror, they could potentially be seen as willing accomplices and face the ensuing criminal and civil liability.

NOTE: Following this report bulletin, BPC informed PMW that the PMA had clarified that the “ATM machines installed at the post offices are not connected to the switches, banking network and any of the banks supervised and regulated by PMA”. 
Considering that response, it would appear the BPC's technology is not supporting the PA's terror reward program.