Char­i­ties’ le­gal bat­tle cost­ing over £2 mil­lion

The Jewish Chronicle - - Special Report - BY SI­MON ROCKER

SAMUEL HAYEK, the chair­man of Keren Kayemeth Le’Is­rael’s new UK branch, this week re­vealed that the cost of its two-year-old le­gal dis­pute with its for­mer Bri­tish as­so­ci­ate, JNF UK, has run into mil­lions — even be­fore next year’s sched­uled High Court trial.

Mr Hayek said that he and his re­cently ap­pointed board “were hor­ri­fied to learn that the es­ti­mated cost to date, for our side alone for the le­gal ac­tion, is ap­prox­i­mately £2 mil­lion be­fore the sub­stan­tial costs of the trial. We as­sume that JNF have ac­cu­mu­lated a sim­i­lar cost.”

The con­flict be­gan in Oc­to­ber 2005 when KKL, the in­ter­na­tional Zion­ist agency which sup­ports land and wa­ter projects in Is­rael, an­nounced it was split­ting from JNF UK and plan­ning its own Bri­tish branch.

A month later, JNF UK launched a High Court ac­tion to stop KKL from us­ing the names “JNF” or “Jewish Na­tional Fund” to fundraise in Bri­tain but sus­pended it dur­ing at­tempts to reach an out-of-court set­tle­ment.

If the two sides fail to reach agree­ment, they are due to re­turn to court in Fe­bru­ary — and the loser could face costs of many mil­lions.

Mr Hayek added: “We are des­per­ate to settle this dis­pute. It is deeply re­gret­table that we have been forced to de­fend our­selves in this ac­tion, thereby divert­ing our re­sources and fi­nances from im­por­tant com­mu­nity and char­i­ta­ble causes.”

But a JNF spokesman hit back, say­ing: “If they are so des­per­ate to settle, why not pick up the phone to the JNF UK pres­i­dent and ask to meet?

“One should re­mem­ber who ini­ti­ated the prob­lem in the first place. KKL ad­ver­tised that they had pub­licly ex­pelled JNF from the KKL fam­ily.”

He said that JNF’s le­gal costs were “nowhere near” KKL’s: “Ev­ery penny is cov­ered by a donor who has ringfenced the money in ex­cess of his al­ready con­sid­er­able sup­port for JNF projects.”

As for KKL’s £2 mil­lion fig­ure, he com­mented: “That’s what hap­pens when you go to the most ex­pen­sive firm of lawyers in the coun­try.

“One must re­mem­ber that KKL spent ap­prox­i­mately £500,000 on a vi­cious news­pa­per ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign against JNF. This profli­gacy and un­ac­count­abil­ity is symp­to­matic of the way in which KKL han­dled JNF Char­i­ta­ble Trust’s money, which was the root cause of the dis­pute.”

KKL has used so­lic­i­tors Her­bert Smith, while JNF has en­gaged the ser­vices of Mish­con de Reya.

A KKL spokesman said that fur­ther talks to re­solve the dis­pute had been sched­uled but chal­lenged JNF to dis­close its le­gal bill.

The JNF spokesman said the or­gan­i­sa­tion “re­mains will­ing to settle on any terms that pro­tect the in­tegrity of our char­ity”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.