Legal

MoneyGram, Western Union Sued Over Downed Passenger Plane

MoneyGram, Western Union Sued Over Downed Plane

Four financial institutions are being sued over suspected ties to terrorists who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Two prominent money transfer companies, MoneyGram and Western Union, as well as two Russian banks, VTB Bank and Sberbank, are being sued by the surviving family members of Quinn Lucas Schansman, a Dutch and American man who was one of 298 people killed when the plane was shot down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile. The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The lawsuit is based on a 1992 law that lets Americans sue entities in U.S. courts if they provide material support that those entities supported terrorism. Lawyers say all four of the companies helped the Ukrainian separatist movement believed to be responsible for the attack.

“The men who launched the missile may never be hauled before a court to answer for their crimes, but all of those who participated in arming them and supporting them must be. Today, businesses and banks that allowed greed to reign supreme by providing – day in and day out – a reliable way for these terrorists to raise money from supporters around the world will be forced to answer for their actions,” said David Pressman and Lee Wolosky, the two attorneys representing the family.

Western Union said it offered its “deepest condolences” to the family, but that the lawsuit was “without merit.” The company added, “We take our regulatory and compliance responsibilities very seriously.”

VTB told the Journal that the bank “has never been or is in any way involved in financing of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Any speculations on this are absolutely false.”

The conflict that led to the downing of the plane was between pro-Russian separatist forces and the Ukrainian government. The lawsuit says the Donetsk People’s Republic is a terrorist group, and that MoneyGram, Western Union, VTB and Sberbank were all part of the funding mechanism for the group.

“Through numerous websites, the DPR and its fundraising representatives brazenly advertised ways to donate to their efforts, including through sending money to accounts with, or bank cards issued by, defendants Sberbank and VTB Bank,” the lawsuit alleges. “The DPR and its fundraising representatives also openly and notoriously detailed ways to donate to the DPR using the money transfer services of defendants MoneyGram and Western Union.”

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