Holocaust Survivors: Even After Theft Conviction, Lawyer Continues to Exploit Us

Yisrael Perry was sentenced to 12 years in jail for embezzling DM 320 million from German pension funds.

The ex-attorney who was sentenced to jail earlier this year for embezzling insurance premiums from German-Israeli pensioners is still illegally charging clients for money that does not belong to him, according to an ex-client.

Reuven Cohen, 84, of Haifa, intends to file several injunctions today with the Tel Aviv District Court against Yisrael Perry, demanding that the court prevent Perry and companies under his control from collecting additional funds or using the money collected so far.

Cohen's attorney, Doron Levi, and associate Assaf Bigger, estimate that Perry has collected a total of some 10 million euros every month from pension payments paid by German pension funds to Perry's clients. Cohen's requested injunctions would forbid Perry and firms under his control to use releases and approvals they had received from clients and would freeze the funds he has so far collected.

In February, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Perry to 12 years in prison for embezzling 320 million German marks. He was also fined NIS 21.75 million and sentenced to five and a half years of suspended imprisonment. His appeal is currently under review.

In 1983 Perry learned that according to an agreement between Israel and West Germany, any person who had been a citizen since 1953 and resided within the 1967 borders was eligible to join the German pension scheme and receive full benefits, given a down payment of DM 100,000.

Perry set up a firm to represent applicants and sort out the legal procedures, including applying for loans in international banks. He made clients sign contracts that would enable him to claim insurance premiums on their behalf. The clients were made to believe they signed an agreement with established insurance firms as a third party, whereas in fact they were all under Perry's control.

According to Levi, Perry is able to continue to collect funds because his clients had signed a release that states that one third of all payments they receive from the German pension funds is to be transferred to Perry's firms. The payment orders were never canceled, Cohen said.

"Most of Perry's clients are elderly people who are not very familiar with the case," Levi said. "Some of them don't realize that their payments are still subject to illegal fee collection and so they do not take action to see the matter stops."

During his trial, it became known that Perry had set up several firms to handle the funds he had skimmed. One company, Britannia, was registered in the Cayman Islands, a popular tax shelter. The court said that it could not be identified as an insurance firm, and that Perry deceived his clients to draw additional profits.

"This is a very difficult time for me and my family," Perry said during the trial. "I have undoubtedly made mistakes all along the way. Although I haven't always been acting with full transparency, I don't think my conduct constitutes a criminal offense."