Pressure Mounts on Claims Conference Chief Over Fraud Probe

Julius Berman Faces New Criticism Over Investigation

Pressure Rises: Claims Conference board members and outside groups are raising calls for Julius Berman to allow an independent investigation into his role in the botched probe of multimillion dollar fraud at the Holocaust restitution group.
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Pressure Rises: Claims Conference board members and outside groups are raising calls for Julius Berman to allow an independent investigation into his role in the botched probe of multimillion dollar fraud at the Holocaust restitution group.

By Paul Berger

Published June 07, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
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In July 2010, Goot wrote on an online Jewish news site: “I believe that the organization is well led, well governed, well staffed and manages its restitution funds in a manner consistent with best practice and probity.”

A few months later, writing in the New York Jewish Week, Kent said the fraud “was intricate enough to escape eligibility screeners and detection not only by Claims Conference personnel, but also by supervisory authorities.” He added that the Claims Conference has “swept nothing under the rug.”

In May, the Forward revealed that the anonymous 2001 letter implicated about a half dozen New York-based employees in a fraud scheme and laid out the basic steps necessary to prove it. A decade later, almost all of the people implicated in the letter pleaded guilty to or were convicted of fraud, including Semen Domnitser, a director of the two Holocaust funds that were targeted by the fraudsters.

After the letter was revealed, a Claims Conference spokeswoman, Hillary Kessler-Godin, blamed the director of the Claims Conference’s office in Frankfurt, Germany, Karl Brozik, for failing to adequately investigate the letter’s claims. Brozik died in 2004.

Biderman echoed Kessler-Godin’s statement on May 13, when he told the New York Jewish Week that only Brozik was at fault. “If we had realized what was going on, we never would have countenanced it for a second,” Biderman said.

During Brozik’s investigation, several Claims Conference officials in New York were copied on faxes between New York and Germany. They were Saul Kagan, a former executive vice president, Gideon Taylor, then executive vice president, and Greg Schneider, then assistant to the executive vice president. Kagan and Taylor have since resigned from the Claims Conference. Schneider is now executive vice president.

“There was a mistake in the way this was handled, but it was not [Schneider’s] mistake,” Biderman told the Jewish Week.

Subsequent to the Brozik investigation, Taylor and Berman oversaw a second investigation into the letter’s allegations, which was carried out by a paralegal at Berman’s law office, Kaye Scholer LLP.

Since his fellow board members began calling for an independent investigation into the handling of the letter, Berman has insisted that several independent bodies have already investigated the matter. In an 11-page memo to board members, on May 30, Berman cited investigations by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and Deloitte LLP.

But none of those organizations focused on how the Claims Conference has handled the anonymous letter.


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