The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 27, 1998 · Page 7
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 7

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, March 27, 1998
Page 7
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THE PALM BEACH POST FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 1998 7A Experts say fund could reach as much as $3 billion This agreement represents an important indication of the good faith of the three Swiss banks to reach a just, fair settlement' STUART EIZENSTAT Undersecretary of state for business and economic affairs gress and of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, who began the drive to force the banks to disgorge some of the enormous war booty deposited in their vaults. In Washington, that effort was led by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., who held hearings at which Holocaust victims recounted their frustrations in getting Swiss banks to acknowledge, much less search for, accounts their families opened. Stuart Eizenstat, the undersecretary of state for business and economic affairs, said, "This agreement represents an important indication of the good faith of the three Swiss banks to reach a Swiss bank officials have acknowledged a responsibility to turn over proceeds in long-dormant accounts left by Holocaust victims. After years of denying that many such accounts existed, they published lists last year of thousands of people who still had accounts in Switzerland that have seen no activity for half a century. They also set up a voluntary fund in Switzerland, now totaling about $200 million, to help elderly Holocaust victims. While the banks have contributed to funds in Switzerland, the new fund would settle legal claims, and in that sense is restitution rather than contribution. But the Swiss and the Clinton BANKS From 1A Suits and sanctions have triggered a huge political backlash in Switzerland that makes it unclear whether the government will ever participate in the fund. I It is also unclear how large the fund will become. Participants in the furious negotiations that led to the agreement all say money has not yet been discussed, but Some outside experts estimate it Could exceed $1 billion, and perhaps reach as much as $3 billion. "We have turned the corner," said Edgar Bronfman, the chairman of the World Jewish Con administration have steered clear of using the term "reparations," for fear it would incense the Swiss, who say that because they were neutral in the. war, they should not have to pay, the kino: of damages that belligerents such as Germany and Jar pan paid. -. "Call it reparations," one official close to the negotiations said, "and the deal is off." After Thursday's announcement, which was still being drafted in Switzerland early Thursday, the committee of state and local officials, led by Alan Hevesi, the New York City comptroller, agreed to suspend any sanctions against Swiss banks. just, fair settlement." He called the announcement "a breakthrough." Eizenstat led the American investigation into stolen gold and other assets last year and intervened to get settlement talks started. In a phone interview, he said: "It is not done yet; we have a long way to go. But it is a very promising start." Until Thursday, the banks have been at a stalemate with the plaintiffs in the class-action suit filed in New York, as well as with the World Jewish Congress and other groups representing victims of Nazi persecution. 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