At Trial, Arab Bank’s Lawyer Spars With Witness
For three days, the former chief of the Israeli military’s Palestinian Affairs Department delivered important, if a bit dry, testimony in the terrorism financing trial of Arab Bank in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
The witness, Arieh Spitzen, had highlighted bank records showing Arab Bank routing payments to people who, he said, were widely known to be terrorists or members of Hamas.
But during cross-examination on Thursday, the typically dull dissection of bank records became lively. Mr. Spitzen was tenacious, while Shand S. Stephens, a lawyer for Arab Bank, was aggressive — making them well-matched sparring partners.
The case is also noteworthy because Arab Bank did not turn over a huge number of bank records; it said that would have violated financial privacy laws in some of the countries.
To “restore the evidentiary balance,” a judge who had handled the case in 2010 ruled that the bank could not explain to the jury why it did not produce the requested records.
The bank’s refusal to turn over such records stymied investigative efforts by Mr. Spitzen, who at several points on the stand referred to his frustration.
But Mr. Stephens was able to get across the point that Arab Bank had produced many documents. He opened his cross-examination by noting that the 225,000 documents the bank had turned over would reach the height of a seven-story building. After Mr. Stephens asked if those calculations were correct, Mr. Spitzen deferred to Mr. Stephens, saying he trusted him.
“Well, you’re probably one of the few people in America that trusts lawyers,” Mr. Stephens said, to laughter from spectators.
Mr. Spitzen got his own laughs, when he pointed out that he had not printed all of these records and had examined them on a computer. “I’m not using that quantity of paper,” he said. “It’s not good for the environment.”