A prominent Holocaust restitution lawyer, Ed Fagan, is planning a trip to Austria to defend himself against published accusations that he hired an underage prostitute.
Several Austrian publications have reported that the state prosecutor in Vienna is looking into contacts that Fagan and other individuals allegedly had with a prostitution ring that involved underage girls from Eastern Europe.
In an interview with the Forward, Fagan said he does have an ongoing relationship with a woman named Inga who was discussed in the Austrian press reports as a 17-year-old Lithuanian prostitute at the time of the original meeting. Fagan is quoted in the Austrian publication News as saying that the woman had told him she was at least 22 years old. Acccording to Austrian law, it is illegal for an adult to knowingly hire a prostitute under the age of 18.
Fagan declined to discuss the specifics of his relationship with Inga, but said the news reports in Austria were all done “carelessly.” Fagan said he has never been contacted by the Austrian authorities, but he recently contacted them and is planning a trip to Austria to give a statement under oath. Fagan also said he is planning to bring legal suit against the Austrian publications.
“The issue from top to bottom in Austria is either a manipulation of evidence, a lie or fraud,” Fagan said.
Fagan said he believes the leaks in the call-girl case are a form of payback, for his role in filing a lawsuit against the Austrian government in
an American court, accusing it of complicity in a ski resort fire in 2000 that killed 155.
“The timing of the leaking of the police files, which were doctored or inaccurate, comes at a time right when we have sued the Republic over a bunch of issues,” Fagan said. “There is nothing coincidental about the timing.”
Fagan rose to fame in the mid-1990s, when he was the first lawyer to bring suit against the Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust victims and their heirs, who were attempting to claim accounts that had been dormant since World War II. Fagan was famous for holding high-profile press conferences during which he made the case against European companies and governments.
The Swiss banks eventually agreed to a $1.25 billion settlement, but Fagan never realized the lawyer’s fees that he had anticipated. He has nonetheless continued his legal battles against European governments, including Austria. He has frequently traveled to Austria to deal with these cases.
The leaks regarding the prostitution investigation were first reported at the end of August by the Austrian magazine Falter. Fagan was the only person named specifically in the news reports that followed. The case in question stems back to November 2004, when two men were convicted in Austrian court for running escort services involving underage Eastern European women. The Austrian state prosecutor only recently began investigating the customers of these call girl rings, to determine whether any customer had knowingly sought out underage prostitutes, according to news reports.
The Vienna state prosecutor did not return calls seeking comment.
Fagan told the Forward that he knew one of the men, named Peter, who was convicted last year. Fagan said he met Peter while investigating paintings taken from Jewish families during the Holocaust. Fagan said he found out that Peter ran an escort service, when Peter was helping Fagan track down some of the stolen paintings.
Fagan declined to say if it was Peter who had introduced him to Inga. About Inga, Fagan said, she “continues to be a friend of mine — at one moment she was more than a friend.”
In early September, Fagan gave an interview to the Austrian magazine, News, in which he is reported to have said: “It would have been an offense to not sleep with her. Later we slept with each other without any payment.”
Fagan said that he was interviewed in English, and would not comment on the German translation that appeared in the Austrian magazine.
The accusations in Austria are not the only pending problem for Fagan. In the United States, Fagan is the subject of an ethics investigation that could lead to his disbarment. The New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics has accused him of “knowing misappropriation” of client money. The special ethics master overseeing the case, Arthur Minuskin, recently denied Fagan’s request that the case be dismissed because of his medical incapacity. Hearings are scheduled for mid-November.