by Nahum Barnea
The event was like taken from a Hollywood thriller.
Uzi Shaya, a former senior official in the intelligence arms and currently a businessman, was last week on a business trip in Washington, the capital of the U.S. Shaya may be a key witness in the “Bank of China” case, in which the Chinese bank is suspected in money transfers to terrorist organizations in the Gaza strip. One evening two people knocked on his hotel room’s door in Washington. One of them was a court clerk and the other a lawyer. The clerk shoved an envelope into his hands – a subpoena to testify in a court in New York, in a hearing that will take place in the last week of November. They did not say how they found out that he is in U.S. and stays in that hotel, whether they followed him, who and how. The subpoena is a court order; if he does not testify, he will be arrested the second he steps on the U.S. land again.
The subpoena is a significant development in a legal, national security and political drama, which involves the Israeli government, the Chinese government, politicians in Washington, the Federal court in New York and families that lost their loved ones in terrorist attacks. Israeli intelligence sources exposed a funding network of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad that was transferring funds to the Gaza strip through bank accounts with Bank of China. They asked the Chinese to order to close these accounts. When it was clear that the Chinese are not going to do so, the fight moved to the legal field.
With the encouragement of Israeli officials, Yekutiel and Sheryl Wultz, Jews from Florida whose son Daniel was killed in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, filed a lawsuit against the bank in the Federal court in New York. The Republican House Majority Leader in the US Congress, Eric Cantor, is the cousin of the mother, Sheryl Cantor-Wultz. The Prime Minister office in Jerusalem promised him that Israel will stand behind the lawsuit till the end. Some Congressmen published strong condemnation letters to the Chinese because of their behavior in this matter.
The Chinese threatened to cancel the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit in China. After they were provided with calming promises from Jerusalem, the visit took place, but they made it clear that if an authorized Israeli official testifies in this case, it would severely damage the relationship. Netanyahu is torn in this case between the promise that was given in his name to Cantor and the promise that was given in his name to the Chinese government. He decided not to decide. He ordered the national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, to try to find a solution. The solution was not found, and in the meantime Amidror retired. His substitute, Yossi Cohen is very familiar with this matter from his years with the Mossad.
The case’s details (“the Chinese Plonter” by Simon Shiffer and Nahum Barbea) were published in detail in Yedioth Ahronoth in July this year and in other articles.
Shaya is a key witness because he was, on behalf of Israel, in touch with the Chinese in an attempt to close the bank accounts. The Bank, which is controlled by the Chinese government, notified the court that Shaya will not testify. When the court turned to the Minister of Justice office and asked for clarifications, the answer was an Israeli request for an extension without committing here or there.
Shaya’s former employers in the Israeli government warned him that if he testifies, they may take measures against him. Despite the warning, Shaya felt loyalty to the plaintiffs that were asked to assist the Israeli government and were abandoned. He wrote a letter that left the question of his testimony open. The Federal court subpoena reduces his maneuvering area. “Why are you doing this to me?” Shaya asked one of the Wultz family’s lawyers. The answer was “We got the impression that all the government of Israel wants is to earn some time”. It is possible that there are more subpoenas on the way to other Israelis involved in this case.
In the meantime Shaya went back to Israel and is consulting with his lawyer.