(JTA) — Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder called on the Claims Conference to be reviewed by an independent committee following the disclosure of a missed opportunity to detect a massive fraud scheme.
Sharansky and Lauder released a joint statement on Tuesday, the first day of the Claims Conference’s annual board meeting in New York, criticizing the organization’s leadership for not disclosing a 2001 letter warning about fraud to the organization’s board of directors — in addition to not disclosing a subsequent probe of the letter’s allegations.
The fraud went on for nearly 16 years, resulting in $57 million in fraudulent restitution payouts from the German government. Claims Conference officials discovered the fraud in 2009 and alerted the FBI, which subsequently arrested 31 people, including several Claims Conference employees. All pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial.
Sharansky and Lauder said in their statement that a committee tasked with recommending changes to the Claims Conference be made up mostly of representatives of other Jewish organizations.
“For far too long there has been a gap between the tireless efforts of the Claims Conference on behalf of the Jewish people and the growing perception that the organization is run like a closed club, with little transparency or accountability in its decision-making process,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post.