(POSTED MONDAY, JULY 5, 1:30 p.m.) The Federal Bureau of Investigation has widened its probe into allegedly fraudulent Holocaust-era claims that could have bilked the German government out of millions of dollars, The Jewish Week has learned.
Libyan ruler Moammar Khaddafy met for the first time Monday with Libyan Jewish expatriates as a prelude to paying reparations to Libyan Jews who fled in the 1960s.
If Khaddafy makes good on his promise to make such payments, Libya would become the first Arab country to pay Jews who were forced to leave their homes. Jews lost $1 billion in Libya alone, officials representing the community said.
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein has touched off a scramble among Jewish groups seeking compensation for Jewish refugees from Iraq as well as other Arab countries. In many cases the groups are competing against each other.
At stake potentially are billions of dollars from individual and communal claims.
The push for reparations comes at a time when Palestinians are demanding the right of return to their former homes in Israel.
As a move is under way to expand the search for Nazi-era Swiss bank account holders, the group established to speed the payment of life insurance policies from that period is coming under attack for allegedly working against the heirs' interests.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of two Holocaust survivors now living in California asserts that because the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims is funded by the insurance companies, it is "inherently biased." The suit also alleges that the commission works to"diminish or deny" claims.
Despite complaints from survivors and others that money from the sale of heirless Jewish property in Germany should be used exclusively for the care of needy, aging survivors, the board of the organization that controls those funds voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to continue allocating 20 percent for educational purposes.
But opponents of the move vowed to continue to press their case and convince the Claims Conference to reconsider its decision.
The battle over lawyers' fees in the $1.25 billion Swiss bank settlement with Holocaust survivors and their heirs has taken yet another turn: a Florida lawyer is petitioning the court for $3.6 million, a figure a fellow lawyer in the case calls "shocking."
New York cannot be used as a haven for stolen artworks, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court ruled this week in upholding the power of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to seize two Egon Schiele paintings whose ownership was contested.
Two years of often frustrating negotiations to resolve the Holocaust-era insurance policies of German Jews ended with an agreement last week to pay $100 million to the beneficiaries. To assist in locating them, the names of all German Jewish insurance policy holders from 1933-38 will be posted on the Internet.
"This agreement is a major step forward for many survivors and their heirs who previously had no readily available routes for pursuing valid German insurance claims," Lawrence Eagleburger, chairman of the commission that resolved the issue, said in a statement.
Robert Kaufman of Manhattan, a former president of the New York City Bar Association and legislative assistant to Sen. Jacob Javits, confides that he was "totally amazed" after being notified recently that he would be receiving $180,000 from his relatives' dormant Swiss bank deposits.
"I had no idea of the amount until I got a copy of the decision" from a tribunal handling the claims process, Kaufman said. "And I didn't think I was going to get the money so quickly."