It came as a big surprise to many when an extensive article was published by the Los Angeles Times about how $17.5 million allocated by French insurance company AXA, was misappropriated by Armenian lawyers and other individuals associated with them.
The article, bylined by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton, is titled “A Blood Money Betrayal: How corruption spoiled the reparation for Armenian Genocide victims.”
The two writers first tell the story of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and then examine the mid-2000s court cases, filed by three Armenian-American attorneys against American New York Life and AXA insurance companies. The attorneys, Vartkes Yeghiayan, Mark Geragos and Brian Kabatek sued the companies in order to collect life insurance policy payouts for the descendants of victims who died during the Genocide. They were successful in securing a pair of class-action settlements totaling $37.5 million to be distributed to the rightful heirs of the policies.
The journalists state that the New York Life case ran smoothly and the $20 million provided by the American company was properly distributed to the public. However, when it came to the French company’s $17.5 million, which was to be allocated to French-Armenian individuals and charities, a large amount of the money was misused.
According to the article, over 90% of the applications which the attorneys received, were rejected for various reasons, many of them very minor, while some applications with questionable information were accepted. Large sums of money were then transferred to individual bank accounts by forging and falsifying documents. There were also amounts given to institutions that were not entitled to receive them. Attached to the published article, were numerous false documents prepared by the lawyers to cover up their illegal activities.
The journalists further state that the French board, established by the settlement to provide meaningful oversight, was unable to fulfill its role due to obstacles from the Armenian-American lawyers. U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, who had been tasked with overseeing the proper distribution of funds, had also failed in her responsibility. Judge Snyder turned down many requests for an independent audit by the French-Armenian Board. Complaints to the California State Bar, the FBI, and other agencies to investigate the matter, have also been unsuccessful, according to the article.
So far, no one has been held accountable and the perpetrators are likely to go unpunished, given that the statute of limitations, which in most cases is ten years, has already expired.
The investigative article published by the Los Angeles Times is not only about injustice to people who deserved compensation, but is also considered an insult to the memory of the victims of the Genocide.
The work that was started to stand up for the rights of Armenians, has unfortunately deviated from its intended purpose. Certain individuals, by their actions, discredited not only their names, but also disrespected all Armenians.
The Los Angeles Times investigation is a wake-up call for all actors in our community to carry out responsibilities entrusted to them conscientiously and with high standards, especially in this day and age when nothing can be kept secret and everything will come to light sooner or later.
Link to LA Times article: Here
Editor’s Note: All the individuals named in the Los Angeles Times article have refuted the accusations against them. We respect the presumption of the innocence of each person.