Holocaust lawyer in Austrian sex scandal

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The Independent Online

Ed Fagan, who has brought class-action suits over the treatment of Holocaust-era slave labourers and over a train fire in the Austrian ski-resort of Kaprun, is among several men who have been connected with an exclusive call-girl ring involving underage girls from eastern Europe.

Mr Fagan told the Austrian weekly NEWS he had paid for sex with a woman from Lithuania, but says she assured him she would be 22 this year. He says he met the woman, Inga, through a man who has since been sentenced over the escort service affair. Mr Fagan says when he "noticed that the guy was running a call-girl ring, I didn't really care. I was more interested in getting to know this Inga".

The lawyer is quoted by the magazine as saying it would have been a crime not to have slept with the woman. He says he later had sex with her when no payment was made and she accompanied him on several trips and visited him again in Austria.

"We went sightseeing in Vienna, wandered through the gardens of Schönbrunn palace, in Salzburg we stayed in the incredibly beautiful Hotel Kobenzl with views over the city." The lawyer says Inga and her younger sister, who also worked as a call girl for the agency, are now living in London "in safety".

Investigations of clients of the agency have just been started, after Austrian prosecutors admitted it had been a mistake not to follow this line of inquiry. Knowingly having paid-for sex with a woman under 18 carries a sentence of up to three years in Austria. The state prosecutor, Werner Pleischl, says telephone transcripts involving a "handful" of the escort service's clients are being checked, to determine whether they expressly requested and met underage girls. The prosecutor says authorities will now "quickly make up for" any previous oversights.

Mr Fagan's lengthy class-action compensation cases for Holocaust victims and their descendants have long been a thorn in the side of European governments, banks and companies. He has also represented the descendants of slaves against three US companies, led a suit against the South African government for apartheid victims and taken on a case against Thai and US authorities for victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.

The lawyer told NEWS there was "no doubt" the Austrian authorities were trying to get back at him, "to divert attention from the real scandals going on". He said he would continue to fight his cases.

Speculation over the escort service's client list increased when the left-wing weekly Falter reported that the agency had received telephone inquiries from someone within the Austrian parliament. Gerhard Roder, a spokesman for the governing People's Party, said he made the calls purely for "research purposes". Mr Roder is known for his campaigns against child abuse.

Mr Fagan said he would welcome the opportunity to go to Austria over the call-girl case to prove he had done nothing wrong.