WJC blasts Claims Conference's silence over fraud probe

World Jewish Congress expresses frustration over delayed delivery of ombudsman's report; Rosensaft labels delay "incomprehensible."

July 7, 2013 21:39
2 minute read.
Robert Goot

Robert Goot. (photo credit: Courtesy WJC)

The World Jewish Congress has expressed its frustration with the Conference of Material Claims Against Germany over its failure to provide members of its board of directors, including representatives of the WJC, with the results of an internal fraud probe prior to this week’s board meeting on Tuesday.

“We are deeply concerned and puzzled by the fact that five days after the ombudsman’s report was received by the Claims Conference it has still not been received by the members of the Claims Conference board,” Menachem Rosensaft, WJC general-counsel, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“The report was delivered to the Claims Conference as soon as it was completed, on July 2,” Robert Goot, a member of the board, informed the Post in an email on Thursday.

In May, Goot was appointed by embattled conference chairman Julius Berman as part of the Select Leadership Committee that tasked Claims Conference ombudsman Shmuel Hollander with investigating the organization’s response to a $57 million fraud perpetrated against it for 16 years.

The controversy at the Claims Conference centers around a 2001 anonymous tip-off letter sent to the conference that resulted in two internal probes that failed to uncover the fraud. The current probe is the result of pressure from several influential members of the board representing organizations such as the WJC and the Jewish Agency.

Rosensaft said that it was “incomprehensible” that conference chairman Julius Berman and executive vice president Greg Schneider have not, after “more than seven weeks,” answered the “critical and fundamental questions [WJC] president [Ronald] Lauder raised” in a letter that he sent the pair in May.

“We have still not received any answers,” he bemoaned.

In his missive, Lauder questioned if the “existence of the aforementioned [whistleblower] letter of June 6, 2001, and the subsequent communications regarding that letter among members of the Claims Conference professional staff [were] ever disclosed to the board of directors and/or the members of the executive committee of the Claims Conference, or other members of the Claims Conference key professional staff?” If so, he asked, “when did such disclosures occur, and were they duly minuted?” In a subsequent letter to former WJC official and Claims Conference critic Isi Leibler, Lauder wrote that as the fraud was such a “long-term issue with potentially serious implications,” should Berman and Schneider fail to provide answers that satisfied him, he would set up a WJC task force to investigate allegations against the pair.

Several organizations with representation on the Claims Conference board have endorsed the idea of an independent probe, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews becoming the latest to do so on Thursday, stating its support for the WJC ultimatum.

In response, Rosensaft stated that the WJC is “gratified that other members of the Claims Conference board share our concerns and have stated [them] so publicly.”

Stephen Kramer, who represents the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, Central Council Jews in Germany, on the board, wrote the Post that “until today, Sunday, I have not received anything from the Jewish Claims Conference and neither did at least three other board members.”

Kramer said that the situation was “strange, to put it very mildly.”

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