20th April 23:38
Court Examines Case Against Vatican on Ustasha Gold
Court Examines Case Against Vatican on Nazi Gold
Thu Oct 7, 2004 06:28 PM ET
By Adam Tanner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. courts should reconsider a dismissed
lawsuit alleging the Vatican Bank laundered assets stolen from victims
of Croatia's pro-Nazi World War II regime, the plaintiffs' lawyer said
The lawyer, representing elderly war survivors, presented her
arguments before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is deciding
whether a lower federal court erred in ruling the issue should be
handled by diplomacy rather than the courts.
"The case is complex, complicated and difficult," said Stephen Trott,
one of three judges hearing the case. "Are the courts the proper
authority to deal with issues like this?"
The war survivors filed the lawsuit in U.S. federal court in 1999
against the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan Order, alleging they
laundered stolen gold and other assets during the Second World War.
The case was dismissed in 2003.
Arguing for the plaintiffs, Lee Boyd, an associate professor of law at
Pepperdine University, said the lower court ignored a history of
courts resolving related political claims. She also said class-action
lawsuits had helped spur settlements relating to German slave labor
and Swiss banks during the war.
The class action lawsuit accuses the Vatican Bank of receiving
hundreds of millions of dollars of gold and other assets looted from
victims of Croatia's brutal Ustasha regime from 1941-1945. As many as
700,000 people, most of them Serbs, were killed at death camps run by
the Nazi-allied government.
Vatican Bank attorney Jeffrey Lena argued foreign policy, not
lawsuits, should address such historical claims.
"Losses that occur in the chaos of war need to be handled by the state
which suffers the loss," he said. "It is well beyond the provenance of
the district court to manage."
"Getting to the merits of this case...would require the gathering of
evidence from multiple countries, evidence that is more than 50 years
The lawsuit does not seek any specific monetary amount but, at least
initially, a review of how much money is involved.
The plaintiffs say the illicit funds may have been funneled to groups
working to smuggle Nazis out of Europe after the war, including Adolf
A court ruling is expected in several months.
Listening in the courtroom audience were the president of China's
supreme court and other Chinese justices, who are visiting the United
States. Some Chinese survivors of World War II have filed lawsuits
against Japan for wartime atrocities.