News 16 Mar 17

US Lawyer: WWII Lawsuit Against Croatia ‘Invalid’

A US lawyer told BIRN that a 3.2 billion euro lawsuit against Croatia for property seized by its Nazi-allied WWII regime is ‘invalid’ because it was filed without the consent of the plaintiffs.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Adolf Hitler (left) meets Croatian Ustasa leader Ante Pavelic in Germany, 1941. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jonathan Levy, a lawyer at Washington-based Brimstone & Co, told BIRN on Thursday that a private suit filed by the WWII victims and their descendants against the Croatian state at the Illinois Northern District Court in the US is “invalid”.

Croatian daily Vecernji listreported on Monday that plaintiffs are demanding 3.2 billion euros in compensation from Croatia for seized property, as well as for the suffering of their relatives during the World War II, inflicted by the Nazi-aligned puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, NDH, which was led by the fascist Ustasa movement.

The newspaper reported that the Foreign Ministry in Zagreb has received the suit, which was said to have been filed last May by descendants of Croatian Serbs, Jews and Roma - Lizabeth Lalich, Mladen Djuricich, Robert Predrag Gakovich, Veljko Miljus, Bogdan Kljaic, David Levy and Daniel Pyevich.

But US lawyer Jonathan Levy forwarded to BIRN a legal notice which he sent to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, in which he stated that he is the legal representative of Lalich and Kljajic in their claims against the Vatican for money that it received from the Ustasa treasury.

He said in the notice that Lalich and Kljajic were not informed that the lawsuit against Croatia had been filed.

“This is a notice that the above-referenced lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois was filed without the consent of the plaintiffs and is invalid for reasons of identity theft and fraud upon the court,” he said.

“I represent plaintiffs Lalich and Kljaic and they had no knowledge this lawsuit had been filed in their names and have no relationship with the attorneys involved,” he added.

Levy said that at least three other plaintiffs in the suit against Croatia are deceased, and suggested that others might have no knowledge of it either.

“[Lalich and Kljaic] have no desire to sue Croatia which is the successor state to the [Socialist] Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under international law and instead are participating in the Ustasa Treasury claims process with the Vatican which we hope Croatia will now support,” Levy wrote.

Certain people in the Vatican allegedly sponsored the exiled Ustasa government after WWII and helped to transfer parts of its treasury – partly created from wealth taken from Serbs, Jews and Roma – to the Vatican Bank.

According to the US court, the lawsuit against Croatia was filed in May 2016 by the plaintiffs’ representatives: Trisha Michelle Rich from Holland and Knight, LLP, Aaron Ross Walner from Walner Law Firm, Ltd, Mark A. Flessner from Holland and Knight, LLP, Anthony Alfred D’amato from Northwestern Law School and lawyer Richard M. Carbonara.

The Ustasa movement targeted Serbs, Jews and Roma, by killing them, sending them to Croatia-based and Nazi German camps and by confiscating their property and belongings.

The confiscations under NDH rule were part of a process known as the ‘Aryanisation of property’, in which the property of Serbs, Jews and Roma was given to ethnic Croats according to racial laws passed in 1941 and modelled upon Nazi legislation.

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