Award Banner
Award Banner

US judge orders $2.23b payout to families over 1983 Beirut bombing

US judge orders $2.23b payout to families over 1983 Beirut bombing
The witness stand (rear left) and the judge's chair (rear centre), face towards the defence table (left) and prosecution table (right), in Part 31, Room 1333 of the New York State Supreme Court, Criminal Term at 100 Centre Street, in New York on Feb 3, 2012.
PHOTO: Reuters file

A federal judge in New York ordered Iran's central bank and a European intermediary on Wednesday (March 22) to pay out US$1.68 billion (S$2.23 billion) to family members of troops killed in the 1983 car bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.

US District Judge Loretta Preska said a 2019 federal law stripped Bank Markazi, the Iran central bank, of sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, which sought to enforce a judgement against Iran for providing material support to the attackers.

The lawsuit also names Luxembourg-based Clearstream Banking SA, which is holding the assets in a client account. Clearstream parent company Deutsche Boerse AG said on Wednesday that it is considering appealing against the decision.

Clearstream will "weigh all relevant interests and responsibilities" and comply with its legal and regulatory obligations in handling the funds, Deutsche Boerse said.

The exchange said that it does not view the ruling as increasing the risk from the lawsuit in a way that would require the companies to make financial provisions.

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Oct 23, 1983, bombing at the Marine Corps barracks killed 241 US service members.

Victims and their families won a US$2.65 billion judgement against Iran in federal court in 2007 over the attack.

Six years later, they sought to seize bond proceeds allegedly owned by Bank Markazi and processed by Clearstream to partially satisfy the court judgement.

Bank Markazi has argued that the lawsuit was not allowed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which generally shields foreign governments from liability in US courts.

In January 2020, the US Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in the families' favour, and ordered the case to be reconsidered in light a the new law, adopted a month earlier as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act.

Preska said the 2019 law authorises US courts to allow the seizure of assets held outside the country to satisfy judgements against Iran in terrorism cases, "notwithstanding" other laws such as FSIA that would grant immunity.

A Luxembourg court in 2021 ordered Clearstream not to move the funds until a court in that country recognises the US ruling. Clearstream has appealed that decision.

The case is Peterson et al v. Islamic Republic of Iran et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-09195.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.