Insurers face big Nazi bill

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The Independent Online
HOLOCAUST campaigners have rejected a pounds 2.4bn estimate to settle insurance claims by the families of Nazi victims - including some against Premier League sponsor Axa.

The figure emerged from the deliberations of an international commission, which was set up to return Nazi-confiscated assets - including life insurance claims - to the heirs and families of Jewish people.

A US company handling the claims, Risk International, has warned that the pounds 2.4bn estimate will not be enough to cover losses suffered by Jews after Nazis seized their assets during the Second World War.

"News has been leaked of pounds 2.4bn offered by the liable companies to cover the total amount of claims. I don't think that would cover it," said Terrel Hunt, the president of Risk International.

But the insurance companies involved in the payouts believe the total claims will amount to far less. "It is impossible to say how much we will have to pay out. The pounds 2.4bn estimate is based on the worst-case scenario, but I think it will be far less," said a spokesman from Allianz, the German insurance giant.

Axa, Allied Zurich, Generali and Allianz are among the European insurance giants which face unpaid insurance claims on policies issued to Jewish people between 1920 and 1945. Individual claims of up to pounds 48,000 have already been lodged.

Previously unreleased details of Nazi-confiscated assets belonging to Jewish families, have only recently been made public. The information has remained hidden for over 50 years, which has created difficulties for surviving beneficiaries trying to locate insurance policies and other financial documents.

Despite the push to reconcile families with their lost assets, the claims process has been hampered by the destruction of archives and delays in setting up call centres to handle inquiries.

It is believed that most of the insurance claims will have to be met by Allianz. In the 44 years since the end of the Second World War, it acquired several companies that had insured Holocaust victims and is liable for their debts as well as its own.

Insurance companies have remained tight-lipped on the figures but insist that any possible payouts will not have an ad-verse impact on balance sheets.

Axa has admitted that it has already paid out on a "small amount" of claims. "We have not made any provision for the claims in our annual reports and accounts because we have no idea if the amount of claims will be large or small," said a company spokesman.

The International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims is headed by a former US secretary of state, Larry Eagleberger, and includes representatives from six insurance companies, European regulators, and Jewish organisations.