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

PRAGUE (RFE/RL)–Descendants of victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide will soon be able to search a website to check whether any of them are eligible to make a claim to the French insurer–Axa.

A class action lawsuit accusing Axa of failing to pay death benefits for the insurance policies purchased by Armenia’s killed during the Genocide was settled for $17 million earlier this month in a California court.

"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," said Brian Kabateck–one of the three lawyers of Armenian descent investigating the case.

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

Kabateck 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 to a fund designed to pay out policyholders. The remaining $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 to the heirs of victims.

According to Kabateck–Axa was more cooperative in reaching the settlement than New York Life.

Now–Kabateck says–the group of lawyers is also investigating a case against Deutsche Bank which received deposits of money and property from Armenia’s that it never returned to the victims’ families after the Genocide.

As to how substantial this claim is–Kabateck 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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