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Hrant Gadarigian

A Baffling Silence: Armenian Media Turns a Blind-Eye to Genocide Settlement Funds Scandal

The LA Times, on March 23, published the findings of an exhaustive investigation revealing how millions of dollars in Armenian Genocide settlements funds won in court cases were fraudulently misappropriated by lawyers and other shady characters along the way.

Many of the culprits are Armenians.

In the end, many of the rightful claimants never received a dime. Instead, organizations and individuals with no legal claims to the funds pocketed hefty chunks of the cash.

The LA Times piece, A ‘blood money’ betrayal: How corruption spoiled reparations for Armenian genocide victims, meticulously details what happened but nevertheless is an engrossing read.

The authors, Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton, weave a tale of financial intrigue and legal shenanigans based on newly unsealed case filings, other court documents, official records, and interviews.

It’s a breaking story that hasn’t been picked up, even incidentally, by the Armenian “press”, either in the diaspora or Armenia. Neither have I come across any commentary by the so-called Armenian establishment, even those organizations who for decades fervently pushed the cause of Armenian Genocide recognition. (I welcome evidence to the contrary.) 

The story begins more than a decade ago when three Armenian American attorneys sued to collect life insurance policies on victims of the genocide and came away with a pair of class-action settlements totaling $37.5 million.

The Armenian media was all over the story when the courts awarded the money. It was “big news”. Today, there is a baffling silence. 

To be honest, the Armenian press, with rare exceptions, is woefully inadequate to properly investigate such stories, even when they directly impact the community it purports to cover. Here, I refer to the "institution", not individual journalists. The institution just isn't geared towards in-depth investigative pieces. This, sadly, is a global trend that sees greater profits in infotainment than old-time muckraking. 

This is another matter entirely and one that needs its own candid and serious investigation. 

For the Armenian media not to even report the news of the LA Times findings is troubling on so many levels. There is no acceptable excuse for not doing so. I too am late to the game.

Armenians have a tenuous, “love-hate” relationship with the non-Armenian media. Armenians crave coverage, but selectively. Is this an unfair generalization?

The LA Times article must be read more than once. But don’t despair. Those who have an aversion to reading lengthy pieces can also listen to a fifteen- minute KVPR interview with the investigation authors.

To say that the Armenian media has “missed the boat”, yet again, is putting it mildly.

It’s a “breaking” story that continues to evolve.

On April 2, the LA Times reported that four California lawmakers said they were "disgusted" by the revealed financial misconduct and have called for an investigation of the entire sordid matter.

There it is in a nutshell. It remains to be seen how the Armenian community will respond, if at all. It appears that the story hits too close to home. 

(Photo illustration by the Los Angeles Times. Images are from documents submitted by applicants in the AXA settlement case.) 

Update: The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) did Tweet the following on March 23 in response to the LA Times article. Totally off point!

#Armenian #Genocide (1915-23) reparations are owed - first & foremost - by the Republic of Turkey (legal heir to the Ottoman Empire and genocidal perpetrator in its own right) for the territories, resources, properties, assets, and opportunity costs of its still unpunished crime.

BTW, the LA Times went the extra mile and translated its piece into eastern Armenian. It was published on April 1.

On April 5, the LA Times reported that the chief prosecutor for the State Bar of California said the agency was taking a fresh look at attorney conduct in landmark Armenian genocide reparations cases following the LA Times investigation detailing corruption and misdirection of funds in one of the settlements.

Comments (5)

Because they didn’t come up with it first, they all of a sudden “don’t care”.
I stand corrected. The ABA did make public a statement in two brief paragraphs, the first an informative paragraph about the organization itself, and the second a tepid response to the LATimes report. The language is generic, the content is thin, and the tone is cagey: No statement of support for the exhaustive work of the journalists, no attempt to engage with their conclusions, and certainly no recommendation for future action. Instead, there is "profound sadness," "concern," "core values" and so on and so forth. A sham!
Good work, Hrant. So let's see:: this disgraceful blood-money corruption--by good old Yankee shysters, ethnic Armenians and non-Armenians alike--must be the fault of an ATTITUDE inherited from the indescribably horrible Soviet-era. Just more proof that the American Way is the Only Way.
The silence extends to other institutions in our LA Armenian community: the church, the political parties, the cultural organizations, the lobbying groups, as well as community leaders, activists, academics, and artists. So far, (15 days after publication), no individual or entity has come forth with a statement welcoming this thorough, groundbreaking investigation; engaging with its content; and upholding the principles of good journalism and transparency.
Massis Weekly/Massis Post
https://massispost.com/2022/04/how-millions-of-dollars-allocated-to-the-french-armenians-were-misappropriated/ https://massispost.com/2022/04/top-lawmakers-demand-investigation-of-corruption-in-armenian-genocide-victim-payments/

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