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Top: JewishWorld Conspiracies: RestitutionIssues: The Great Swiss Bank Robbery
Holocaustsurvivor assails lawyer Woman in lawsuit says her attorney misled her
Sunday, June 28, 1998
The Associated Press
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The lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by 31,000 Holocaust victimsagainst Swiss banks to recover wartime assets has accused herattorney of lying and keeping his clients "in the dark." Gizella Weisshaus, 67, a survivor of Auschwitz, accuses attorneyEd Fagan of lying and acting unethically, according to court documentsobtained Friday by The Associated Press. "I suspect she believes there's some deal between the WorldJewish Congress and me over who gets the money - and nothing couldbe further from the truth," Fagan said. Weisshaus has written to the federal judge in the case, askinghim to mediate the dispute. While three Swiss banks are trying to negotiate a settlement withJewish groups, Weisshaus said she was "trying very, veryhard to retain another attorney but to date, I have been unsuccessful,"according to a letter she wrote June 3 to Judge Edward Kormanin Brooklyn. That letter and one dated April 26 were both filed at the federalcourthouse and faxed to the AP by a source close to the Swissbanks who requested anonymity. The Romanian-born Weisshaus saysshe and other plaintiffs are facing a dilemma to which they "haveunethically been subjected to by Mr. Fagan." She said theattorney promised that the federal suit seeking class action,filed in October 1996, would be limited to private claimants.He later added what she calls questionable claims like those byvarious Jewish organizations and Gypsies whose wartime personalassets were looted. Fagan said he believes Weisshaus is worried that Jewish groupstrying to recover the dormant Swiss assets - including the WorldJewish Congress - "may end up with the money. I have assuredher that I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that survivorsget their money." Switzerland's three biggest banks - Credit Suisse, Swiss BankCorp. and Union Bank of Switzerland - have offered $600 millionto settle lawsuits claiming the banks had failed to return assetsfrom the victims' wartime accounts. topof page
ZURICH, Sept 21 '98, (Reuters)- Irked Swiss officials werestill mulling on Monday whether Israel's prime minister was welcometo attend a business seminar after he congratulated the WorldJewish Congress for helping retrieve Holocaust victims' wealth.
In a letter to WJC President Edgar Bonfman that made its wayinto the Swiss press, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Bronfman forhis efforts to win compensation for Holocaust victims who allegedSwiss banks withheld their wealth after World War Two.
This angered Swiss officials who say Netanyahu had distancedhimself from Bronfman's aggressive efforts to wring compensationfrom Switzerland and its big commercial banks when Swiss PresidentFlavio Cotti visited Israel in May.
Big Swiss banks agreed last month to pay $1.25 billion to settlethe allegations that they stonewalled victims.
The foreign ministry in Berne said it was still examining nowwhether Netanyahu was welcome to attend a high-level economicseminar set for late November that was designed to improve bilateralbusiness ties.
"The question we are dealing with is the coming of theprime minister in this context. We are still evaluating the questions,"ministry spokeswoman Yasmine Chatila said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Eytan Bentsur spokeby telephone with the Swiss ambassador to Israel on Friday tooffer reassurances, she said.
"Now there might be more explanations to come. These aregoing to be evaluated and a decision will be taken later,"she said, declining to say what Berne was still waiting to hearor how long it might take to decide on the case.
A diplomatic source in Jerusalem confirmed a confidential letterwas sent to Bronfman within the past month.
"This letter sparked great anger in Switzerland becauseBronfman is not so popular there. They took it as an insult tothe country and President Cotti," the source said.
The letter did not mention Switzerland, he said, adding thatBentsur had sought to clarify that the missive was not meant toharm Switzerland and that relations between the two countrieswere important to Israel and Netanyahu.
Bilateral relations, normally good, suffered this year whenSwitzerland arrested a man it said was a Mossad spy during a botchedeavesdropping mission in Berne. Israel apologised for the incident,allowing Cotti's trip to Israel to proceed.
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BERN, Switzerland, Sept. 18, '98, (AP) - A letter from IsraeliPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising the head of the WorldJewish Congress for his efforts on behalf of Holocaust victimshas cooled relations with Switzerland.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yasmine Chatila said thegovernment was reconsidering whether to go ahead with a high-level Swiss-Israeli economic seminar planned for November.
Israeli officials tried to smooth things over Friday.
Sources in Tel Aviv said Israeli Foreign Ministry DirectorGeneral Eytan Bentsur phoned Pierre Monod, the Swiss ambassador in Israel, to explain that the letter was not meant to insultSwitzerland.
Bentsur stressed that Israel respected the steps taken by Switzerlandto make amends for its role in World War II, the sources said.
Switzerland stayed out of the war but was later accused byJewish groups of profiting from the Holocaust and acting as banker to the Nazis.
After a campaign led by the World Jewish Congress, Swiss banksagreed in August to pay $1.25 billion to Holocaust survivors to compensate for World War II losses.
The Aug. 28 letter from Netanyahu thanks Edgar Bronfman forhis efforts ``to redress a terrible injustice inflicted on theJewish people.''
``You have provided moral leadership in a long and tough struggleagainst those who profited from the unspeakable suffering of millions of Jews. You have done this with great pride, dignity,skill and aplomb,'' Netanyahu said.
The letter was leaked and printed in a regional Swiss newspaper,the Thurgauer Zeitung.
The Swiss government is angry with Bronfman for what it considersunfair attacks and his remarks about ``total war'' on the Swiss.
When Swiss president Flavio Cotti visited Israel in May, Netanyahucriticized such bellicose statements. And in a veiled reference to Bronfman, he said that Israel was ``not at war withSwitzerland.''
Diplomatic sources said Cotti and other government leaderswere irritated that Netanyahu would then praise Bronfman's methods.
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