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US court ruling paves way for payments to Holocaust survivors

Swiss banks can now put the issue of Holocaust era accounts behind them Keystone

Holocaust survivors and their heirs should soon start to benefit from a $1.25 billion settlement from Swiss banks, after a United States judge approved a plan to share out the money.

The ruling on Wednesday by US district judge, Edward Korman, came more than two years after Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, and Jewish groups agreed the settlement over Holocaust-era assets.

Payments should now start early next year, once a final appeal against the distribution plan is resolved.

During the court hearing, some of the survivors complained about how long it had taken to resolve the payment issue. Others said they were worried that the money would not go to its rightful recipients.

However, after the hearing Jewish groups told Korman the proposal was fair and was supported by a majority of claimants.

Korman approved in its entirety a distribution plan drawn up by a court-appointed mediator, Judah Gribetz. Those who will benefit most are holders of dormant Holocaust era accounts in Swiss banks.

Some $800 million dollars has been earmarked for claimants who can prove that their families deposited money in Swiss banks during the Nazi era and never got it back. An estimated 80,000 people have identified themselves as depositors, or heirs of account holders.

Most of the remaining funds will be shared among wartime refugees who were turned away at the Swiss border or expelled from Switzerland and former slave labourers forced to work for Swiss-owned companies.

Gribetz estimates that each refugee will receive around $2,500 and each forced labourer about $1,000.

He has also earmarked $100 million to compensate victims whose assets were stolen by the Nazis and sent to Switzerland.

The distribution process is expected to take several months.

In a separate development, Swiss banks say that early next year, they aim to publish a new list of some 26,000 holders of dormant accounts that are likely linked to the Holocaust.

It will be the third Internet publication of the names of dormant and closed account holders, following two lists published in 1997. They contained 16,500 names.

James Nason, a spokesman for the Swiss Bankers Association, said the third list related to “accounts with the greatest degree of possibility of being linked to a Holocaust victim.”

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR