Family of MH17 victim sues Russia banks, US money transfer companies

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The family of an American teenager killed aboard the MH17 flight launched a court case Thursday against Russian banks and US money transfer companies for helping to finance pro-Moscow separatists accused of shooting it down over Ukraine.

In a complaint filed in US federal court, the family of Quinn Lucas Schansman – the only US citizen aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur – takes aim at Russia’s Sberbank and VTB Bank, which have offices in the US, and the Western Union and MoneyGram transfer companies.


It accuses them of allowing large amounts of money to be sent to separatists in the Donetsk People’s Republic, mainly from Russian diaspora sympathizers residing in the US and elsewhere, allowing them to acquire heavy weapons and to control the eastern part of Ukraine, from which the missile that downed the aircraft was fired.

The 63-page complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, is based on a 1992 US anti-terrorism law that allows American victims of terrorism to sue those who provide material support to terrorism.

Among the family’s lawyers is a former deputy US ambassador to the UN, David Pressman. “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,” Pressman said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

A Netherlands-led probe concluded in May 2018 that the plane was struck by a Buk surface-to-air missile controlled by Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.

Australia and the Netherlands blamed Russia for the disaster, which killed all 298 people aboard, but Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the destruction of the plane.

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