Genocide Claims Case Gets Muddier

LOS ANGELES—The inter-attorney squabble over payments by the French AXA Insurance Company to the heirs of genocide victims continues, as one of the attorneys, Brian Kabateck, filed a motion on Dec. 31 asking the U.S. District Court to launch an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of genocide survivor claim funds by another attorney, Vartkes Yeghiayan.

In response, Yeghiayan filed a motion opposing Kabateck’s claims, thereby throwing the matter further into he-said-he-said territory.

Kabateck, who along with Mark Geragos and Yeghiayan were once co-counsel in the pursuit of payments to the heirs of genocide victims from insurance companies, is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Yeghiayan in March 2011 for alleged misappropriation of funds.

The Kabateck motion, according to court records obtained by Asbarez, alleges that Yeghiayan “created charities for the purpose of funneling” funds allocated by the class action settlement for charities, known as cy pres, “to himself, his family, his law firm, and other personal and business associates.”

Kabateck of the Kabateck, Brown Kellner LLP, along with Geragos, filed the March 11 lawsuit. The current motion calls for a stay of the suit pending the proposed Yeghiayan investigation.

The Dec. 31 motion says that counsel has “determined that at least five charities may well have been established by Mr. Yeghiayan to launder money [$1 million] from the class settlements,” earmarked to be used by “legitimate charitable organizations to assist the Armenian community.”

Kabateck’s motion states, “It appears that Mr. Yeghiayan created five of the nominated charities for the sole purpose of receiving settlement funds for their own personal and business use. He operated several of these charities out of Mr. Yeghiayan’s law office in Glendale, and one of these supposed ‘charities’ is a private foreign bank account. There is very little evidence that these charities have engaged in any charitable activity whatsoever, other than to issue press releases that publicize Mr. Yeghiayan’s lawsuits and speaking engagements and to sell his books and other publications.”

The Kabateck motion cites allegations over using funds earmarked for Armenian charitable organizations to pay for college tuition, consultants and others to carry out projects that benefitted Yeghiayan.

In his opposition motion, Yeghiayan said Kabateck’s actions were without merit, citing several legal precedents that he seeks to use to disprove the initial motion.

“Kabateck’s lawsuit against Yeghiayan, Mahdessian, and the charities was filed in March 2011. Since then, it has hung like a sword of Damocles over all of them while the court and counsel have focused on recovering money improperly distributed and handled,” read the official opposition motion filed by Yeghiayan attorney Roman Silberfeld of the law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller, and Ciresi, and obtained by Asbarez from Yeghiayan’s law firm.

“Mr. Yeghiayan vehemently denies the allegations that he may have established ‘at least five sham charities to launder money from the class settlements,’” reads the motion.

A hearing on this motion is set for Jan. 28 at the U.S. District Court.

Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, this ongoing squabble between the attorneys who deemed themselves worthy of representing the interests of genocide survivor heirs is, to say the least, muddying the just case for reparations to genocide victims, and has already shaken the trust of the Armenian people. It is critical that this issue be resolved in a transparent manner.

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