February 1, 2006

New York bars Jewish Congress leader from handling funds

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York state has barred a leader of
the World Jewish Congress from any financial duties after an
investigation found he mishandled group funds and failed to
keep adequate records.

A whistle-blower central to the probe on Wednesday called
the decision vindication for those who alleged financial
mismanagement at the nonprofit group, which formed in 1936 to
fight Nazi persecution.

Former WJC Secretary-General Israel Singer will relinquish
all financial management after the state found a number of
"possible financial improprieties," among them a $1.2 million
transfer to European bank accounts in 2003.

The investigation found a series of inappropriate transfers
to senior congress employees, including more than $300,000 that
went to Singer, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced
on Tuesday, adding, "The investigation did not reveal criminal

Singer served as the group's secretary-general from 1986 to
2001, when he retired and became chairman of its governing
board. He recently resigned from that position as the Spitzer
investigation neared its conclusion.

Spitzer's office regulates all not-for-profit groups that
raise money in New York and began an inquiry into the WJC in
late 2004 after receiving reports of possible misuse of funds.

One those reports came from Isi Leibler, a long-time member
of the congress who called the Spitzer report "a victory for
the Jewish community" because if forced the congress to
overhaul its financial accounting and it bans Singer from
controlling any more funds.

"I feel satisfied because those of us (whistle-blowers) who
were demonized, those who were expelled, have been vindicated,"
Leibler said on Wednesday.

"But there are a number of issues that need to be
clarified. There was money that was appropriated and later came
back, but where it was in the meantime and what it was used for
remain a mystery," Leibler said.

The congress on Tuesday issued a statement welcoming the
conclusion of the probe, saying the group has emerged with
"transparent governance" and modernized accounting.