Magazine article The Spectator

The Princes and the Towers

Magazine article The Spectator

The Princes and the Towers

Article excerpt

I've not been much of an admirer of Radio Four's documentary series File on Four, produced in Manchester, but last week's edition (Tuesday) was fascinating. It drew on the evidence being compiled by the successful and wealthy American law firm that is suing more than 200 individuals, Muslim charities and financial organisations on behalf of 5,300 relatives of those killed on 9/11. Two of the people named in the case, which opened in Washington this week, are Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London, Prince Turki, and the country's defence minister, Prince Sultan. They're accused of being either willing or unwitting accomplices of al-Qa'eda, and the families are after trillions of dollars.

If those being sued argue that they didn't know that money being channelled to Islamic charities was being diverted to terrorists, they will be guilty of negligence; if they did know, they would be complicit. The lawyers are based in Charleston, South Carolina, and are led by Ronald Motley, something of a celebrity - self-styled 'king of torts' - and known for taking on the tobacco companies and relieving them of many millions of dollars for damaging health. His percentage, according to the reporter Gerry Northam, ran into billions, with which he's able partly to finance the case himself. He told Northam it was about accountability and making the funding of terrorism painful. He said he had built up what he called 'a superb case' against them.

We heard from a bitter and angry father whose son died after being trapped on the floor above where the first aircraft flew into the World Trade Center. He admitted he was in it for the money, which he would spend on good causes, because he wanted to bankrupt the Saudis. There were already four scholarships in his son's name. The allegation against Prince Sultan is that he gave his own money to charitable organisations knowing it was being used to fund terrorist operations by al-Qa'eda. One of the lawyers involved, Michael Elsner, said the prince was specifically warned about this in 1999 but continued to make donations. His rebuttal, though, is that he was merely doing it as an agent of the Saudi government and not in a personal capacity. Elsner says he has the evidence that it was his own money. …

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