Yesterday the district Court in Tel Aviv began to consider a criminal case on laundering $ 172 million, the action was brought against a well-known Israeli businessman of Russian origin, Arkadi Gaydamak. Mr Gaydamak has been living in Russia in recent years; he made a special trip to the court hearing in Tel Aviv to prove his innocence. Businessman admits that he had performed two financial transactions that were incriminated as a "money laundering", but he does not consider them a crime.
Mr Gaydamak was talkative and joked a lot during an improvised press conference that occurred in front of the District Court immediately after the hearing. He expressed himself in English. According to him, the last eighteen years he lived permanently in Moscow and could not come to Israel because of the health problems. After having had the medical treatment, the businessman immediately flew to Tel Aviv “for a few weeks" to participate in court hearings. The businessman said that he was not afraid of involvement in the process, as he was persuaded of his innocence. “It is not clear what articles of the Criminal Code the indictment of the Prosecutor's Office is based on," he said.
In his turn, lawyer of the defendant, David Levai has categorically denied speculation appearing in the Israeli media that his client was allegedly preparing to conclude a deal with the investigation. "What kind of deal can you talk about if Gaydamak denies all charges against him and does not understand how the investigation materials prove his guilt?”, the defender explained. Mr. Lebanon refused to discover the worked out tactics of defense.
Let us recall that the Israeli prosecutor's office accuses Mr. Gaydamak for money laundering through the branch N 535 in Israeli Bank Hapoalim in Tel Aviv, known as "the Russian branch”. According to investigators, the businessman joined the "conspiracy" with the leaders of Hapoalim, and made two questionable financial transactions. In 2002, he allegedly bought a Dutch company Termopost for $ 50 million for a nominee name; the Company was developing the phosphate deposits in Kazakhstan. The buyer allegedly had grounds to conceal his identity, because at that time he was a suspect in another criminal case, investigated in France, and that could alert vendors. Then, according to prosecutors, Mr. Gaydamak, again illegally, transferred $ 122 million from his personal account abroad, and "forgot" to inform the Central Bank of Israel about it. Opacity of the deals, according to Israeli law, actually equates to money laundering, so the businessman, according to the prosecution, caused damage to the state worth about 650 million shekels ($ 172 million).
As Arkady Gaydamak told Kommersant, he was going to buy Termopost to his name, but given the fact that in 2002 " negative information background was created around his name" "cautious Dutch owners of the company themselves recommended him to effect a deal with a nominee. As a result, the buyer turned out to be a longtime business partner of the businessman - an expert on "phosphate theme", Nahum Galmor. Mr Gaydamak only supported him financially, putting $ 50 million in so-called collateral account. Mr Galmor later became the legal and beneficial owner of Termopost, a guarantee fee was returned to its owner.
Mr Gaydamak has also recognized the transfer of $ 122 million from his personal account at the Israeli Bank Hapoalim to the Russian bank "Trust" claiming it was a forced operation. Shortly before the transfer, the leaders "of the Russian branch" allegedly told him that suspicious persons had taken great interest in his account and advised him to transfer money to another bank at least temporarily. "Every Israeli citizen has the right to dispose of his personal funds at its discretion”, Arkady Gaydamak says. “I am unaware of any laws restricting those rights."
One way or another, in 2004, in respect of the contracting parties a criminal case was prosecuted, and in autumn 2009, it was considered by the District Court of Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, according to Israeli media, even if the case on money laundering falls apart in court, Mr Gaydamak will have to stay in the country for the settlement of other financial matters. The fact is that the court can consider several civil lawsuits filed to the businessman by his Israeli counterparts, to whom he allegedly did not return the debt.