(Reuters) – An American family killed when a Malaysian Airlines aircraft was shot down over Ukraine in 2014, filed a trial on Thursday against US-based money transfer companies and two Russian banks accusing them of providing services to the group they blamed for striking flights MH17.
MH17 fell over territory held by Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and killed all 298 people aboard, about two-thirds of them Dutch.
American Quinn Lucas Schansman, 18, was aboard the MH17 on his way to meet his parents for a family vacation.
"We realize that we will never get our son back. But we are determined to reveal ̵
According to the US Anti-Terrorism Act, the Schansman family is Sberbank of Russia, VTB Bank, Western Union Co. and Western Union Financial Services, MoneyGram International Inc. and MoneyGram Payment Systems Inc. for providing services to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).
"The Armed Forces' provision of material support to the DPR was a significant factor in the DPR's ability to launch a missile from the territory it controlled – an attack that killed Quinn and 297 other innocent victims", according to the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York.
MoneyGram, Western Union, Sberbank in Russia and VTB Bank did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the trial.
The battle struck out in 2014 between separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, supported by Moscow – DPR – and forces loyal to the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The Ukrainian government has appointed DPR as a terrorist group.
"DPR systematically and openly requested financial support from individuals around the world to help acquire weapons, ammunition and lethal equipment," said David Pressman, law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, representing the Schansman family.
"The money was reliably assisted by US-based money transfer services and Russian banks," said Mr. Pressman, who was the vice-US ambassador to the UN between 2014 and 2016.
A team of international investigators, trying to identify perpetrators to be tried under Dutch law, said in May last year a "Buk" missile system that used to bring down the passenger plane from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
The Netherlands and Australia, who lost 38 people, said they are keeping Russia legally responsible and driven Moscow to cooperate. Russia has always denied its commitment and said that none of its missile shooters had ever entered Ukraine.
However, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said last week that Dutch and Australian government officials had met their Russian counterparts to discuss who is responsible. Australia has said it will seek financial damage for the victims' families.
In 2015, Russia vetoed a proposal from Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ukraine for the UN Security Council to set up an international tribunal to prosecute the suspects
"The men who launched the missile may never be charged until a court will respond to their crimes, but everyone who participated in waking them up and supporting them must be, "said Pressman.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, further reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Bernadette Baum)