The U.S. government refuses to say whether it will keep or return the estimated $500 million that remains from the $1.5 billion Libya-sponsored fund intended to compensate American victims of terrorism following the 1988 attack on Pan American World Airways Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. State Department official acknowledged that the U.S. government paid some of this money to victims of other terrorist attacks, not just Lockerbie. Libya’s government was linked to the assault on the Pan-Am aircraft.
In a statement to Breitbart News, the State official said:
Shortly after the [$1.5 billion] settlement was received [from Libya], the State Department paid amounts to the PanAm 103 victims, LaBelle Disco bombing victims, and estates of victims who had died in other terrorist attacks that were the subject of litigation pending against Libya in U.S. courts These payments amounted to over $1 billion.
According to State, about $500 million remained in the fund. Public data online shows that the U.S. government has only awarded an estimated $37.7 million, indicating that much larger portion of the $1.5 billion is leftover.
Asked whether the U.S. government will keep the leftover funds or return the money to Libya, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would not say.
“In the event there are any residual balances in the Fund Account at the time of the Fund’s expiration, those balances will be transferred pursuant to arrangements agreed between the parties,” noted the 2008 U.S.-Libya settlement of $1.5 billion awarded by the African country.
U.S. government officials declined to tell Breitbart News what the “agreed arrangements” are.
The settlement agreement dictates that the $1.5 billion is intended to compensate U.S. victims of “an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking or detention or other terrorist act, or the provision of material support or resources for such an act; or by military measures” at the hands of Libya.
Under former U.S. President Barack Obama, the American government issued compensation referrals for individuals who were not affected by Lockerbie “because there were some remaining settlement funds,” acknowledged the State official, noting that the same thing happened under former President George W. Bush.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) is charged with deciding who gets the Libya funds.
FCSC officials recently denied a request by about 50 former Pan Am pilots to recover $46.5 million ($75.3 million with interest) from the Libya-subsidized funds. Whether $500 million or more remains in the Libya-sponsored fund, there is definitely enough money to cover the Pan-Am pilots’ claim.
The pilots, many of them senior citizens now who served in the U.S. military, have argued that the Lockerbie attack prompted the demise of Pan Am, which resulted in them losing their jobs and pensions.
However, FCSC officials contended that the Lockerbie incident did not lead to PanAm’s demise and therefore had nothing to do with the pilots losing their jobs.
In its final decision, the commission noted:
The Commission denied the claims for two independent reasons: (1) Claimants had failed to demonstrate that their claims were not extinguished by a 2005 settlement between Pan Am and Libya; and (2) they had failed to demonstrate that the Lockerbie bombing caused their job losses. The Proposed Decision also raised the question of whether Claimants had a property interest in their jobs, but did not decide the issue because it was unnecessary to the resolution of these claims.
Joanne Young, the lawyer who represented the pilots, urged Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to take action to reverse the commission’s decision given that there is no appeal process, telling Breitbart News.
They [claimants] won’t get a dime. The U.S. government/FCSC kept 5 percent of the [remaining] money Libya put up for victims of its terrorism for its administrative expenses.
If ever there was a need for President Trump to say, “you’re fired,” it is on behalf of these veterans, who are now seniors and victims of state-sponsored terrorism and now of Obama appointed bureaucrats [at the FCSC commission]. They are truly the forgotten Americans.
Breitbart News spoke to some of the claimants, many of whom expressed dismay at the commission’s decision to deny their claim.
“I’m outraged,” declared Bruce Abbott, a former Pan Am pilot and a military veteran who led the litigation for his former colleagues for decades, noting that about 90 percent of the claimants served in the armed forces.
Ramesh Punwani, the former chief financial officer at Pan Am, blasted the FCSC as incompetent.
“Sadly this confirms my belief that the FCSC is another group of politicians with absolutely no understanding of common sense and basic economics,” he told Breitbart News. “I’m very frustrated at the decision. It’s not correct at all. They’re [agency] ignoring the fundamental facts.”
“We’re very disappointed,” added William Doss, a Vietnam veteran who also worked as an investigator of the Lockerbie crash.
While the Abbot Group’s case has lasted several years, the ultimate decision to deny the request from the former pilots was made recently under Trump’s watch.
Although the FCSC is “a quasi-judicial, independent agency,” it “adjudicates claims of U.S. nationals against foreign governments, under specific jurisdiction conferred by Congress, pursuant to international claims settlement agreements, or at the request of the Secretary of State,” explained DOJ.
The White House did not respond to Breitbart News’ multiple requests for comment.