June 8, 2016 | The Jerusalem Post

Exclusive: Austrian bank shuts terror account of pro-BDS Austrian-Arab center

The Austrian financial giant Bawag closed the bank account of the pro-BDS Austrian-Arab cultural center (OKAZ), which hosted a Palestinian terrorist in Vienna in April.

A spokesman for NY-based investment firm Cerberus- the principal owner of the Bawag bank–told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the account was closed. OKAZ is part of the BDS (Boycott,Divestment, Sanctions) movement targeting the Jewish state. Georgia Schütz, a spokeswoman for Bawag's headquarters in Vienna, wrote the Post on Wednesday:”We can confirm that there are no customer relationships with OKAZ anymore. Due to Austrian banking secrecy we are not able to disclose any reasons or background.”

OKAZ held an April event with the convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The EU and the US both classify the PFLP as a terrorist organization. Khaled hijacked American TWA flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she hijacked EL AL flight 219.

When asked about terror finance, a Bawag spokeswoman previosuly said that it adheres to all anti-terrorism laws.

The NYC-based Cerberus Capital Management company owns 52% of the bank, and GoldenTree Asset Management – also located in New York City – has a 40% stake in Bawag.

Mary Beth Grover, a GoldenTree spokewoman, declined to comment.

The Post first exposed the OKAZ account in April as part of its ongoing series spotlighting financial institutions in Europe that provide accounts to pro-BDS organizations, as well as NGOs with jihadi terrorism connections.  The OKAZ did not immediately respond to a Post query.

When asked why OKAZ lists Bawag account information on its website, Schütz, the bank spokeswoman, told the Post “BAWAG P.S.K. has no influence what an organization puts on its website, it is only at the organization's discretion.”

The Austrian bank Erste Group pulled the plug on the BDS Austria account in April. The Erste Group has a New York City office. Proposed anti-BDS legislation in New York State may have played a role in the terminations of the account.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine, the sponsor of anti-BDS legislation in the New York State Assembly, told the Post in April that his legislation would “certainly adversely affect those banks. In a time of crisis that is growing more acute by the day, Americans and New Yorkers want to stand with our strategic, democratic ally Israel and against hatred peddled by the BDS movement.”

New York Governor Andrew Coumo signed an executive order on Sunday banning state business with companies engaged in BDS.

A spokesman for the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, wrote the  Post by email on Tuesday that “The New York State Common Retirement Fund is an active investor in the State of Israel and has made investments of approximately $532 million there. As trustee of the pension fund, Comptroller DiNapoli condemns the BDS movement against Israel, which may put the Fund’s investments at risk.

He traveled to Israel in November where he met with several of the entities in which the Fund is invested with and explored other

Last week, PayPal shut down the BDS France account. In May, the French financial institution Credit Mutuel severed its account with BDS France.

The German banks Commerzbank, Baden Wuttembergische Bank (BW-Bank) in Stuttgart, Sparkasse banks, and the Postbank provide bank accounts to scores of BDS groups in Germany.