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French Insurer to Enable Heirs of Genocide Victims to Search for Names on its Website


By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
Descendants of victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide will be able to use a searchable website soon to check whether any of them are eligible to make a claim to a French insurer, a Los Angeles-based lawyer told RFE/RL on Wednesday.

A class action lawsuit against French insurer Axa for $17 million was settled earlier this month in a California court accusing the company of failing to pay death benefits for the insurance policies purchased by Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire prior to the genocide in which up to 1.5 million people were killed.

“We are working with Axa to have a searchable website so people can go and look for names. We want to make it as easy as possible,” Brian Kabateck, one of the three lawyers of Armenian descent investigating the case, told RFE/RL.

He hopes that the list will be available to the public within the next six months and anyone who thinks his grandparents or parents might have purchased the policy will be able to check it on the website.

Kabatech explained that under the terms of the deal Axa will donate at least $3 million to various French-based Armenian charities and another $11 million towards a fund designed to pay out policyholders. And $3 million will be allocated for the cost of administering the settlement, including international advertising.

“This shows that 90 years later we still can make a difference. It shows that all the lawyers involved in the case want to continue looking for documentation of insurance, of made deposits, of stolen property. We will pursue anything that we can pursue,” he said.

The Axa settlement follows a similar agreement with New York Life Insurance Company in early 2004 under which it agreed to pay $20 million.

According to Kabatech, Axa was more cooperative in reaching the settlement than New York Life.

Now, Kabatech says, they are also investigating a case against Deutsche Bank which received deposits of money and property from Armenians that after the genocide never would turned over to.

As to how substantial this claim is, the lawyer said: “We are still investigating it. But it doesn’t matter how substantial it was, because even if they did it to one person, that’s too many.”
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