Survivor pension thief gets 12 years

Lawyer Israel Perry sentenced for stealing 320m German marks in pensions from Israeli citizens.

holocaust survivors 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
holocaust survivors 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
For some elderly Holocaust survivors, justice has come too late, but after six years of legal battles, Yisrael Perry, an attorney convicted of defrauding Holocaust survivors of almost NIS 1 billion, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison. Although the legal battles surrounding the case seemed far from over with an appeal being threatened, calls were sounded for the NIS 24 million fine imposed on the multimillionaire attorney to be redistributed to the people he harmed the most. "This is utterly absurd," said MK David Tal (Kadima). "The Finance Ministry is cutting the survivors' stipends and not giving them what they deserve, while a fine of this magnitude for the exploitation of survivors goes straight into the state coffers." Instead, Tal called for the fines - imposed for embezzling German pension funds from Israelis, including Holocaust survivors - to be distributed among his victims. Tal was joined in his argument by MK Colette Avital (Labor) and MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), who initiated the establishment of the governmental investigative committee for examining aid to Holocaust survivors. Perry was sentenced early Tuesday in the Tel Aviv District Court, four months after he was found guilty of stealing 320 million German marks (around NIS 900m.) from tens of thousands of clients of the Organization for the Realization of the Social Security Treaty, a company established and controlled exclusively by Perry. After six years in courts, Perry was convicted of theft, fraud, obstruction of justice and withholding vital information from his clients in order to deprive them of their money. The organization's declared mission was to assist Israelis in receiving compensation from Germany in the form of social security pensions. The organization drew its name from a 1973 treaty signed by Israel and Germany, through which eligible Israeli citizens would pay social security contributions retroactively and, upon reaching the designated age, would receive a monthly pension in the same manner as any German citizen. In its October ruling, the court found that even the name of the company was chosen to deceive clients into thinking it was a state-backed body related to the treaty. Perry set up his organization shortly after the treaty came into effect in 1980, promising to represent the interests of Israelis dealing with the German government to ensure that they received the funds to which they were entitled. He simultaneously set up two other companies to provide loans to those who needed them in order to receive their pension rights. The terms of the loans left his clients with very little of the pensions, with the would-be beneficiaries unaware that these companies had also been set up by Perry or of the resulting conflict of interests. As part of the approval process for the loans, Perry forced his clients to pay insurance premiums that he did not pass on to the insurance companies, but kept for himself. Although outside of the courtroom on Tuesday Perry's attorney, Ya'acov Weinrot, expressed empathy with the dozens of Holocaust survivors who had gathered to hear his client's sentence, Weinrot said he planned to issue an appeal of the sentence to the Supreme Court. "He stole money from us and damaged us emotionally," yelled one elderly woman outside of the Tel Aviv courtroom. "I have nothing to eat, I'm in a very serious state," said Holocaust survivor Ze'ev Lubovich, who complained that he currently lived off of his meager National Insurance Institute pension and the remainder of the German funds left after Perry's take. Following a February 2006 ruling by Supreme Court Judge Asher Grunis, Perry's victims were not allowed to file a civil suit against the attorney until the conclusion of criminal proceedings against him.