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Saudi Binladin Group is not responsible for terrorist plot

The Saudi Binladin Group is not liable for the terrorist plot because it forced Osama bin Laden to surrender his stake in the company 14 years ago.

In court papers, the lawyers argued that the Saudi Binladin Group, founded in 1989, forced the terrorist mastermind out as a shareholder of the company and another family-owned company, the Mohammad Binladin Co., in June 1993.

The document was filed Friday evening in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in response to claims in lawsuits brought by representatives, survivors and insurance carriers of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that the Saudi Binladin Group, along with numerous banks, charities and individuals worldwide, provided material support and assistance to al-Qaida prior to the attacks. The lawsuits seek billions of dollars in damages.

The court documents identified Bakr bin Laden - Osama bin Laden's brother, the senior member of the bin Laden family and chairman of Saudi Binladin Group - as one of al-Qaida's principal financiers.

A judge in July had ordered Saudi Binladin Group to provide additional information about where the money for Osama bin Laden's 2 percent stake in the company went.

The plaintiffs, in court papers filed in August, complained the order fell short. It required the company to produce records of changes in the assets of a 1993 trust created from the sale of Osama bin Laden's shares - but only if they document transfers to bin Laden.

"Trusts are a tool often abused by terrorist financiers due to their ability to hide true ownership of trust assets, conceal the identity of parties benefiting from the trust and otherwise mask financial details," the plaintiffs said.

In its Friday filing, lawyers for Saudi Binladin Group said Bakr Binladin publicly renounced Osama bin Laden in a statement released to the media in February 1994. Two months later, the Saudi government revoked Osama bin Laden's citizenship and froze his assets, the lawyers noted.

These actions, they said, occurred well before the United States first placed Osama bin Laden on its list of designated terrorist individuals and organizations on Aug. 20, 1998, the same year the leader of al-Qaida issued an edict that it was the duty of Muslims to attack U.S. citizens.

Osama bin Laden has more than 50 siblings who share in the fortune amassed after Osama's father, Mohammed bin Laden, built his construction empire, elevating his family to among the wealthiest in Saudi Arabia. The al-Qaida founder's financial worth has remained in dispute.

The Sept. 11 commission concluded that the Sudanese government took Osama bin Laden's assets when he left the Sudan in 1996.

"He left Sudan with practically nothing," the commission concluded. "When bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, he relied on the Taliban until he was able to reinvigorate his fundraising efforts by drawing on ties to wealthy Saudi individuals that he had established during the Afghan war in the 1980s."

In court papers, the lawyers for the bin Laden family companies accused plaintiffs in the Sept. 11 cases of "wasting the court's time" with a baseless request that the companies produce additional proof regarding what happened to Osama bin Laden's 2 percent ownership of shares.

"Osama bin Laden never received any buyout payment and has never had access to these funds," the lawyers wrote.

They said the companies consulted with Saudi authorities, who directed that the money be placed in trust outside Osama bin Laden's control.

The lawyers accused the plaintiffs of "wishful thinking" and "wild speculation" that further research might reveal documents demonstrating that Osama bin Laden benefited indirectly from the transfer of money when his shares were taken away.

A message left with a lawyer for the plaintiffs Monday was not immediately returned.

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