Shapira: Restitution company returned only 15% of assets to Holocaust heirs

By
November 2, 2016 01:07

According to the law, after a few years, the company could sell off the properties whose owners had not been found and allocate the money to assist Holocaust survivors or educational projects commemorating the Holocaust.

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Jerusalem

Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo observes a moment of silence during a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, January 14. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets has “inadequately” prepared for the termination of its activities, set to end December 2017, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira said in his report.

The report, released on Tuesday, found numerous failings by the company in tracking down and restoring assets to the descendants of Holocaust victims.

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The report noted that the cost of operations of the company until the end of the year is estimated at some NIS 186 million, most of which came from the assets of those who perished in the Holocaust.

Since its establishment, the company has identified assets of Holocaust victims from various sources in Israel totaling some NIS 1.8 billion, though it has only returned NIS 280m. to heirs - approximately 15.6% of the total property located.

The report also noted that the company manages some NIS 652m. in real estate, which it has yet to return to heirs or sell for the benefit of Holocaust survivors.

The company was established by the Knesset in 2006, tasked as the authority to handle all assets such as real estate, artwork and bank accounts belonging to Holocaust victims and their heirs, as well as concentrating all the assets and tracking down its owners or heirs.

According to the law, after a few years, the company could sell off the properties whose owners had not been found and allocate the money to assist Holocaust survivors or educational projects commemorating the Holocaust.

The comptroller’s inquiry took place between September 2015 and February 2016 and examined the activities of the organization as well as its preparedness to terminate its work four years ahead of the original intended end date.

Among the deficiencies found, the report stated that as of 2014, the company did not stand by its goals to sell off assets for the benefit of Holocaust survivors and had yet to establish objectives for 2017.

The comptroller report also found that at the end of February 2016, there were 547 open investigations for tracking down heirs that have been ongoing for over a year, out of a total of 631 active investigations.

The comptroller wrote that the company has provided some NIS 750m. in aid to Holocaust survivors, though due to a dispute between the Jewish Colonial Trust and the company, the assistance to Holocaust survivors was scaled back in 2015 and cut entirely in 2016 as a result.

Reinstating aid to Holocaust survivors will only occur through selling assets, and through stock owned by the JTC estimated at NIS 206m., the comptroller wrote.

Among the recommendations issued by the comptroller, included setting clear guidelines limiting the length of investigations and determining goals “as soon as possible” for 2016 and 2017 to realize the assets managed so that the proceeds could benefit Holocaust survivors.

The comptroller further called on the company to prepare a work plan through the end of 2017, which would detail the activities and the budget required to terminate its activities.

“The State of Israel is supposed to serve as an example and take the lead in restoring property, either through the company of through the relevant government institutions,” the comptroller wrote. “The relevant parties must cooperate and expedite the handling of the assets of Holocaust victims so that historical justice which the State of Israel sought will be accomplished, including by publishing the amount of assets that were returned to the heirs of victims.”

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