- The World Jewish Congress, which has wrung billions of
dollars in Holocaust restitution from European governments and companies,
is being investigated by the authorities in New York following a series
of unusual money transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- The influential international group, which was founded
in the Thirties to counter growing anti-Semitism, has attracted the attention
of Elliot Spitzer, the New York state attorney general, who is making informal
inquiries into the transfers ordered by Rabbi Israel Singer, the president
of the WJC since 1985. It is possible his office could order a full-scale
- The inquiries follow a series of allegations about the
organisation's accounting practices by its most outspoken internal critic,
Isi Liebler, the WJC's senior vice-president. Mr Liebler, who has declined
to comment in public, has demanded a full independent audit of the group's
- The WJC was established in 1936 to try to counter growing
anti-Semitism and mobilise the world against the Nazi onslaught. In recent
years the group, which has its international headquarters in New York,
has been responsible for obtaining compensation and restitution for survivors
of the Holocaust and has secured millions of dollars in payments from Swiss
- The investigation by Mr Spitzer's office is reportedly
focussing on payments ordered by Rabbi Singer between October 2002 to February
last year. In that five-month period he ordered the transfer of $1.2m (£630,000)
of the WJC's funds to a numbered bank account in a bank in Geneva. The
staff in its Geneva office said they were not aware of such an account.
- In an effort to overhaul the group's accounting practices,
as well as improve its public image, its chief patron, the billionaire
Egar Bronfman, has ordered an internal review. That is being carried out
by Stephen Herberts. Mr Herberts has reportedly met with Mr Liebler in
Israel to discuss his demands for a full audit.
- Mr Herberts told The New York Times: "You can't
turn around an organisation overnight but I would say that 70 or 80 per
cent of the changes have been initiated." He said that Mr Spitzer's
office had not contacted him but that he was willing to co-operate. "I'm
more than happy to give them anything and everything they may want to see,"
- It was reported by the Jewish Week, a publication for
New York's Jewish community, that Rabbi Singer and Mr Bronfman have worked
together for more than two decades. Earlier this year they accused Mr Liebler
of trying to destroy the WJC and discredit Mr Bronfman by raising questions
about its finances.
- Mr Bronfman tried to oust Mr Liebler from his position,
calling his questions "assaults on my tenure, my integrity and my
- Rabbi Singer has not commented on the investigation of
the money transfers. Earlier this year he said he would fight any such
move. "There is no scandal, and I'm not going to be threatened,"
- Mr Liebler's critics claim that he has been motivated
by political differences with Mr Bronfman, charges he has denied. The WJC
has been a vocal actor in obtaining payments for survivors of the Holocaust
and has worked closely with the International Commission on Holocaust Era
- The organisation, which was set up in 1998, has collected
more than $500m for victims.
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