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Khachatourian: Genocide Claims Case Gets Muddier

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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.

The inter-attorney squabble over payments by the French AXA Insurance Company to the heirs of genocide victims continues.

The inter-attorney squabble over payments by the French AXA Insurance Company to the heirs of genocide victims continues.

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.

4 Comments on Khachatourian: Genocide Claims Case Gets Muddier

  1. This is the curse of the Armenian people. As an Armenian myself, who has advocated Armenian causes and humanitarian efforts, I find myself constantly in the midst of internal bickering. When I was younger it was about tashnaks vs. rangavars, then that mutated into the East church vs. West church. We have Western Armenians, who on the one hand want to establish and fortify their motherland, but who understand nothing of the Eastern Armenians and often look at them with disdain. We have Kirk Kirkorian, who until recently was a great benefactor to Armenia, only to later announce that he had enough. We saw the battle between the Armenian Assembly and Cafesjian over the Armenian Genocide Museum fiasco. And now this! Under the pretense of representing genocide victims, we have chicanery and shenanigans.

    It saddens me. Where is our Armenian Pride? Oh right, that mantle now belongs to the west coast Armenian Mafia. Wonderful. Perhaps every ethnicity has this infighting, but it appears to me that for us, infighting is as natural as breathing air. If the Turks want to defeat our efforts, they have only to use Caesar’s divide and conquer tactics. Dividing us is as easy as letting a mixed bottle of olive oil and lemon juice come to a rest…whenever we rest, we come apart. The antics of older generation is jading the younger. Our fighting spirit is pushed aside as our desire to join our Armenian brothers slowly smothers, making it ripe for us instead to acclimating to our American culture, which is simply the path of least resistance. Shame on you.

  2. avatar Saaten Maagar // January 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm // Reply

    Why one is surprised? When you have a diaspora that is on autopilot, no leadership, no united cause or priorities, no purpose other than the usual song and dance, is it any wonder that smart lawyers and charlatans try to take advantage of the situation? My hat is off to these two lawyers who took advantage of the diaspora leadership that does not exist, does not function except for their own personal agendas and does not punish or reprehend any individual acting against the collective interest of Armenians. Good job!

  3. Hey guys,

    It’s not all doom and gloom. I think the best Armenian organization currently is by far the Armenia Fund. Yes, it’s true that their benefactors are the older generation, but hey that’s where the money is. But the organization’s execution is all the younger generation, who want to unite and be strong. I like their leadership too. They focus on one mission at a time, they look toward the future, and they actually execute! These aren’t just gatherings to lobby congressional leadership. These guys actually go out and build and manage large scale projects, while holding those in charge of the funding for these projects accountable.

    They seem to be mainly interested in building Armenia’s future…and I don’t know what kind of governance system they use, but I have yet to hear any news story of them regarding this type of monkey business and silliness, which we are hearing about in this article. Perhaps one day we will have a prosperous Armenia with Diaspora and Eastern Armenians completely integrated…unlike what is going on in California today. And even if that becomes a pipe dream, then at least what they do is commendable from a humanitarian perspective, regardless of the communities they ultimately serve. It’s something that I can be proud of.

    It would be great if we could also look toward the past and raise awareness of the genocide. It would be even better if pressure from the Diaspora finally affects change in Turkey. I don’t speak for all Armenians, but I don’t care if we get reparations back or not. I just would like for Turkey to stop their denial and their poking of a wound from a century ago and to just let it finally heal. The case in this article should not be ultimately about extracting cash from AXA or from whomever. It should be about showing Turkey that this issue will not die until they stop their misbehavior and denial.

    But let’s face it, if you’re going to venture in this arena of genocide, then you’re going to run into all manner of political mischief whether externally with the Turks or internally like what you see in this story. While the genocide may be the one major force with which all Armenians identify themselves, it is also one of the most frustrating. Year after year, the politicians just play lip service. Once they get what they want (to be elected) they conveniently change their minds 180 degrees. Where’s Obama’s pledge to say the word “genocide”? What about Clinton? Soon we’ll have Kerry as a potential Secretary of State. How much do you want to bet he does nothing for us?

    Right now my hope lies with organizations like the Armenia Fund. It seems to be an organization that unites, without stepping into the quagmire of religious affiliations, politics, generational differences, or East vs. West.

    Finally, I just want to state that even though this note may sound like an endorsement, I don’t work for the Armenia Fund, and any donations I make are equivalent to any other Armenian organization from ANCA to the AGBU. But so far, I am most impressed by them and that gives me hope that maybe we can see similar leadership in the other organizations too. Just my two cents.

  4. Some people are making a big deal of this. The reason Our blaockaded Armenia survives to this day is because Armenia recieves plenty of help and much of it goes to the cause. If deviding us was like olive and lemon then Turks would of done it by now. As a post soviet republic Armenia like other former soviet republics is a land of opportunity for diasporas and domestic frauds to capitalize on the vonurability of this transforming country. 20 years won’t make much difference, rather 50 years at least. So, while we maintain our consern regarding Yeghiayan’s and similar case, lets focus on the big picture, rather than draw end of Armenia outcome from it.

    Unfortunately, lust for money can overwhealm some of our brother’s love for their country. It’s no surprise, because as any other nation we are not perfect.

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