Category Archives: Israel as a springboard for global capital

Israel: Tax haven for Jews

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.726821

Lyin’ to Zion: Israel Is Haven for Fraudsters From France
Efforts to attract Diaspora Jews have made Israel a haven for a few who are trying to escape the long arm of the law.

Hagai Amit

Jun 24, 2016 9:40 AM

In a recent article on the connections between alleged French fraudster Arnaud Mimran, currently on trial in France, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the French newspaper Liberation featured a headline calling Israel a “paradise” for French swindlers.

“Six of the 12 junior defendants in the Arnaud Mimran case were not in court, because they were in Israel, including Eddie Abittan, Michael Haik, Gabriel Cohen, Jeremy Grinholz and Frederic Sebag,” the French daily reported.

“Others involved in the ‘sting of the century’ also found sanctuary in Israel before being extradited to France. That’s the case with Cyril Astruc, alias Alex Khan … who found sanctuary in Israel and was arrested in January 2014. If the vast majority of French Jews who emigrate to Israel are honest, hundreds of others choose to immigrate to Israel to evade legal proceedings in France or use Israel as a base for fraud that they plan to carry out abroad,” the newspaper wrote.

The coverage was prompted by a series of fraud cases that have surfaced involving French Jews. And that is even before Haaretz reported that the star witness in the “sting of the century,” Eithan Liron, is hiding in an apartment on Tel Aviv’s Nordau Boulevard.

In early May, seven Netanya residents with French citizenship were arrested on suspicion of committing massive fraud against several foreign companies. They allegedly hacked the email accounts of senior executives at the targeted multinationals in order to impersonate them and persuade company employees to transfer large sums into bank accounts under their control, ostensibly in order to pay suppliers.

In April, French media outlets reported that five Israeli foreign currency firms were at the center of a French investigation of a 105-million-euro ($118 million) alleged fraud against investors. Fifteen suspects were detained on suspicion of involvement in the case. And in January, five suspects of French origin were arrested for allegedly impersonated corporate executives for the purpose of fraud.

Liberation reported that the instigator of the alleged scheme was Gilbert Chikli, who it said was living in a home with a pool and Jacuzzi in Ashdod, protected by armed guards, “even though he had been sentenced [abroad] to seven years in prison and a fine of a million euros.”

Reports from recent months also allege connections with other cases from the last two years, including one reported at the beginning of last year involving two Jewish suspects of French origin who are accused of systematically collecting information about executives at hundreds of French companies that they were said to be seeking to defraud.

The reports claimed that the two, who live in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, impersonated lawyers and business people and approached the companies demanding that funds be transferred to the pairs’ bank accounts.

If international investigators in Israel perceive crime from Central and South American as relating to drugs, and crime from Russia and Ukraine as fraud-related, in recent years, crime from France has related more and more to sophisticated technology-related crime, in their view.

Bilateral cooperation

Some 7,500 Jews immigrated to Israel last year, compared to 6,700 in 2014 and 3,300 in 2013.

Most are at least middle- class individuals and families who come to Israel in order to escape religious tensions and anti-Semitism in France, and because they want to live in the Jewish state. But for a small minority of these immigrants, Israel is a haven of another sort.

The criminal ties between the two countries have for some years accounted for a significant amount of the workload in the international investigation units of the Israel Justice Ministry and its French counterpart. Cooperation between agencies is close and includes annual meetings to review outstanding cases. The number of extraditions from Israel to France rises every year.

It’s not only legitimate Jewish immigration from France that worries Israeli officials. The Law of Return, which gives Jews and their extended families the right to immigrate to Israel and become citizens, has also been a subject of the authorities’ attention. When there is a new wave of immigrants from a particular country, there is frequently also a rise in the number of people who try to “hitch a ride” at their expense, in order to settle in Israel and exploit their knowledge of the language and customs of their country of origin to engage in criminal activity from their new Israeli base.

The French immigrant community is not thrilled about the reports of criminal links between Israel and France.

“There are a few French Jews who have done things that are not good in France and Israel has taken them in,” says Ouriel Boubli, a lawyer who works with French immigrants. “Apparently that was a mistake. It causes problems and the French community in Israel is angry at these people who have tainted it.” The recent cases have also made it difficult for “good folks” who want to come to Israel to invest, he added.

People of means are choosing to immigrate, Moti Morad, the CEO of the Rishon Letzion branch of Mati, which works with French immigrants, confirms. “People who used to come here just on visits and would count the number of days that they could remain without paying taxes have become citizens, but I don’t see a trend involving the transfer of black [market] money to Israel. There is always a certain percentage.”

An article in Newsweek in late March reported data from the group New World Wealth, which seeks to estimate the flow of capital around the world. The data included an effort to survey international migration by people of means and it reported that a quarter of the 10,000 millionaires who left France in 2015 were Jewish.

This year, the report claims, 4,000 new immigrant millionaires have come to Israel, half of whom have settled in Tel Aviv, but Herzliya, Netanya and Jerusalem were also mentioned as cities that have attracted new immigrant millionaires. The figures reflect the fact that in recent years, Israel has become a magnet for wealthy Jews from around the world and not just from France.

Italy, too

“There is an extensive Italian community that is currently transferring a lot of money to Israel out of concern over steps that the government there would take, but we know that there are also a lot of French people coming and buying property in Israel,“ says Arik Gruber, a lawyer.

One possible reason for Israel’s attractiveness for some is the fact that in 2008, the law was amended to give new immigrants and returning Israelis who had left the country a 10-year tax exemption on income produced outside of Israel or generated from assets outside the country. The amendment also exempted them from reporting overseas income and assets. That’s no small attraction for someone seeking to bring black market assets into the country, but Israeli government authorities have no data on the extent to which such assets have been transferred here.

Avichai Snir of the Netanya Academic College, who conducts research on the subject of black market capital in Israel, says: “The phenomenon exists of money laundering by Jews from around the world in Israel. Historically, the Israeli view was that Jews were to be pitied even under those circumstances and that we needed to help them smuggle their capital. That’s a view from the early years of the country, that persisted for a long time.”

Gruber says a lot of black-market money has come into the country through a variety of means. And a former senior staffer in the Israel Tax Authority’s investigation department added: “Israel has always supported Jews bringing their money here. As a result of legislation, they come here, and for their first ten years here, they have almost no contact with law enforcement authorities.”

Suspicion over money laundering is sometimes the only grounds on which the Israeli police can deal with crime committed abroad. To open a money-laundering investigation in connection with activity committed abroad, the activity has to be significant not only from an Israeli standpoint, but also where it is committed, Israel Police sources say.

If it involves gambling money that is sent to Israel, in a place like the Czech Republic, for example, gambling is legal. If the law is broken in the country of origin, when the property comes into Israel, it is coming in as part of an effort to remove it from where the offense was committed. In such a situation, the money laundering is a separate offense that is divorced from the original offense, according to law enforcement officials.

The officials add that if the profits from fraud are brought into Israel, Israeli law enforcement addresses only the economic aspects of the case, attempting to prosecute the alleged offender for money laundering.

That still requires the cooperation of officials in the country where the initial offense was committed to prove that the motive was to hide the assets in Israel.

“The moment that parties with illegal funds enter Israel, they look for cash-rich transactions through which in one fell swoop they can launder a lot of money,” said a knowledgeable source.

“Investment in real estate is the last stage in the process, after I’ve put the money into the system. Leaving the money in the bank is more problematic, because it’s much more exposed. In real estate, you can register the property in the name of an aunt or sister or a straw man, whereas an account with several million euros in it is something that is usually reported and that could arouse suspicions,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

US bill ‘dramatically strengthens’ Israel alliance

http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/US-bill-dramatically-strengthens-Israel-alliance-344651

US bill ‘dramatically strengthens’ Israel alliance

By MICHAEL WILNER,SHARON UDASIN
07/03/2014

Bill to expand delivery of forward-deployed US weapons to Israel and help commit Congress to further funding of the Iron Dome.
 
The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that declares Israel a “major strategic partner” of the United States, reinforcing the broad relationship between the two nations and laying the groundwork for more expansive strategic cooperation.

The bill would expand the delivery of forward-deployed US weapons to Israel, as well as other military technologies, and would commit Congress to further funding of the Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.

Controversially, the bill would also invite Israel into a visa waiver agreement with the US, which has been opposed by members of the intelligence community and the Democratic caucus for multiple years.

The bill passed 410-1 in the House. The Senate has taken up a similar measure, which is still in the committee process.

Just a day after its annual policy conference in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee declared the bill’s passage a victory, and characterized the measure as “dramatically strengthening the US-Israel relationship.”

“This designation lays the foundation for expanded US-Israel cooperation in a wide variety of spheres, including defense, intelligence, homeland security, energy, agriculture and trade,” AIPAC said in a statement, applauding the bill as “critical” and calling on the Senate to act with similar haste.

The second half of the bill, which focuses on US-Israel energy relationships, was authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and aims to strengthen collaboration between the two countries on energy projects.

The United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Enhancement Bill first passed through the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on December 11, and a Senate companion bill passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on December 20. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was responsible for the Senate companion bill, alongside Se.s Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

This portion of the bill officially determines that “United States-Israel energy cooperation, and the development of natural resources by Israel, are strategic interests of the United States,” recognizing Israel specifically as a partner in water technology, safety and security arenas. Encouraging the US National Science Foundation to collaborate with the Israel Science Foundation, the text also encourages more robust academic cooperation in a variety of energy-related fields.

Advocating “open dialogue and continued mechanisms for regular engagement,” the bill calls for continued energy partnerships among government and academic institutions as well as the private sector from both sides. Some particular topics of interest include identifying priorities for developing Israeli natural resources, discussing best practices to secure cyber energy infrastructure, leveraging natural gas to positively impact regional stability and improving energy efficiency, the bill says.

The bill also acknowledges the important role of the US-Israel Binational research and Development Foundation (BIRD) and the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and commits continued multiyear funding “to ensure the continuity of the programs of the foundations.”

“I am pleased this important measure was included in the legislative package and encouraged to see it received such overwhelming support,” Upton said, following the bill’s passage. “With a simple amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, this legislation will help bolster the partnership between Israel and the US on energy production and help enhance energy security.”

With American assistance, Israel will be able to continue making advancements in developing its natural resources, Upton stressed. He also committed to working on future “commonsense energy solutions” with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, as occurred while drafting this legislation.

“Today the House passed an important bill that will expand the partnership between the U.S. and Israel,” Waxman agreed. “Israel is a close ally, and it is in our national interest to help the Israelis development their natural resources in a responsible way that protects the environment.”

Germany Redoubles Support for Israel

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140224/DEFREG04/302240016

Germany Redoubles Support for Israel

Feb. 24, 2014 –  
By BARBARA OPALL-ROME  

TEL AVIV — Germany is redoubling its already considerable security assistance to Israel with last week’s approval of a discounted submarine deal and a recently delivered cost-free Patriot loaner air defense radar.

A senior German government official told the Associated Press Nov. 30 that the Cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel approved a longstanding Israeli request for an additional Dolphin submarine, Israel’s sixth, and has earmarked €135 million (US $180 million) to subsidize about a third of its cost.

Spokesmen from the German MoD and the German Economics Ministry could not confirm the report when contacted Dec. 1, but Defense News has learned that the director-general of Israel’s MoD, retired Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, plans to visit Germany early this week to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for Israel’s sixth Dolphin-class submarine.

Israeli sources here declined to discuss details of the prospective deal, yet noted that costs for the sixth submarine would exceed €600 million.

The German subsidy would cover about a third of the costs to construct the hull at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), the Kiel, Germany-based shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS). Remaining costs would be covered by Israeli national funds and US Offshore Procurement, meaning the portion of US military aid that is converted into Israeli shekels for development, production and integration of indigenous combat systems.

The subsidized submarine deal is a follow-on option to a 2005 agreement under which Germany underwrote about a third of the cost of two new air-independent propulsion (AIP) Dolphins. Those two submarines – Dolphin 4 and Dolphin 5 in Israel’s planned six-submarine Dolphin fleet – are still undergoing construction in Kiel. They are slated to be delivered in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Once delivered, they will join three diesel electric Dolphins operational since 2001; two of them fully funded by Germany and the third of which was funded jointly by the two countries.

“Israel is enormously appreciative of Germany’s support for our underwater defense capabilities. But it’s not just a one-way street … This subsidy, like previous ones, goes directly to the shipyard and serves to support Germany’s industrial base,” a senior Israeli defense official said.

Defense and industry sources say it will take about seven years to ready the sixth Dolphin for deployment.

Free Loaner Radar

In another manifestation of expanding German-Israeli defense ties, the Israel Air Force (IAF) recently took delivery of a German Patriot radar provided as a cost-free loaner during the three or four years it takes Israel to retrofit its own inventory of AN/MPG-53 radars in the United States.

German, US and Israeli sources confirmed the trilateral cooperation, aimed at filling potential gaps in Israeli air defense coverage while IAF Patriot PAC-2 air defense radars are being serviced at the US Army’s Letterkenny Depot in Pennsylvania.

The loaner radar provided by the German Bundeswehr arrived here in-late October, shortly before the first of three Israeli Patriot radar sets was shipped to the United States for servicing. The German delivery marks an expansion of strategic cooperation with Israel, which received two full-up Patriot PAC-2 batteries from Luftwaffe stocks in 2003 in the run-up to the US-led coalition war in Iraq.

Sources say each radar will take about a year to replace aging components, extend service life, and improve its ability to interoperate with US European Command’s Patriot batteries that participate in biannual US-Israel exercises and could be rushed here for emergency deployment during wartime.

The entire upgrade program is estimated at $15 million and will be funded through annual US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Israel. Israeli and German officials confirmed that the German loaner radar would remain here until the upgrade program is complete and all Israeli radars are redeployed and integrated with other elements of the IAF’s Air Defense Force.

“Germany has contributed to the Air Defence System of Israel since 2003 with the loan of two Patriot systems. Additional components are temporarily on loan to maintain the operational capability of the systems,” Lt. Col. Holger Neumann, a German MoD spokesman, told Defense News.

An IAF officer emphasized that the recently launched Patriot radar upgrade is more logistical in nature and is not aimed at converting Israel’s PAC-2 air defense force to the PAC-3 ballistic missile intercepting configuration at this time.

Separating Politics From Security

The prospective submarine deal and the German loaner radar come amid unusually public tension between Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over deadlocked peace talks with the Palestine Authority.

Since Merkel’s visit here in late January, the German chancellor has repeatedly and publicly prodded Netanyahu to move more decisively toward a Palestinian peace deal and to refrain from additional construction in disputed East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such urgings became more acute over the summer and early autumn, when Merkel urged Netanyahu to seize opportunities inherent in the democratically inspired grassroots uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring.

But despite widely perceived Israeli intransigence on the political front, security ties with Germany — like strategic cooperation — are stronger than ever, and continue to expand, noted Shimon Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Berlin.

“There appears to be parallel tracks that allow Germany and the United States, for that matter, to augment security cooperation regardless of the frustration at the political and even personal level,” Stein said.

“And while steps taken by the Netanyahu government have caused more than a little irritation, the Iranian issue and other security concerns compel friendly countries like Germany to stand by Israel and to continue to strive to meet its security needs.

“The question is whether and at what point these two lines will intersect if core political differences remain unresolved,” he added.

Email: bopallrome@defensenews.com

Microsoft, Israel agree to strategic cooperation

http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/11/05/3111076/microsoft-corp-israel-agree-to-strategic-cooperation

Microsoft, Israel agree to strategic cooperation
November 5, 2012
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel and the Microsoft Corp. agreed to a strategic cooperation to advance computing technology.

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer met Monday in Israel with government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, to discuss the cooperation.

A series of memorandums of understanding will be signed in the coming days by Israel’s chief information officer, Carmela Avner, and Microsoft Israel CEO Danny Yamin, according to reports.

The agreements are in the areas of technological innovation; promoting open government policies; use of technology to reduce bureaucracy; dealing with large databases; information security and privacy protection; development of online government services; collaborative projects; and promoting Israeli technologies and start-ups, according to The Marker, the business publication of Haaretz.

In their meeting Monday, Netanyahu and Balmer discussed Microsoft’s commitment to Israel, and the company’s investments in the Israeli market and their impact, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This is my fourth visit to Israel and I am always excited and inspired by the sheer technological ingenuity of its people and entrepreneurs, a key reason why it’s such an important market for Microsoft,” Balmer said.

Also Monday, Microsoft launched its Windows 8 smartphones in Israel.

Diamond in the rough – Israelis in Africa

Diamond in the rough

By Yossi Melman and Asaf Carmel

Ha’aretz, 24.03.05

With two generals in Kinshasa

Gertler’s big business breakthrough came in 2000. The principal motive was to eliminate the middleman. Gertler decided to invest in Congo, a vast country in Central Africa with a population of 60 million and extensive natural resources including diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and cobalt. Congo, where Conrad set “Heart of Darkness,” was for decades the private property of the king of Belgium, who in 1885 established one of the most brutal regimes of oppression in the history of colonialism.

 

After becoming independent in 1960, Congo experienced a savage civil war. In 1965 the chief of staff, Mobutu Sese Seko, seized power and introduced a cruel, corrupt, despotic regime that turned Congo into a backward country. The average life expectancy there is 41 years, as in Angola. The number of AIDS carriers is thought to be in the millions. Most of the inhabitants are desperately poor. Only a handful of officials, army officers and cronies of the powerful enjoy the country’s riches.

After Mobutu was deposed, in 1997, the country was again plunged into civil and tribal war. The neighboring countries, coveting Congo’s resources, sent in their armies. Amid this turmoil, the young diamond merchant Dan Gertler arrived in Kinshasa, the capital, at the beginning of 2000 and started to look for ways to reach the new ruler, Laurent Kabila. With the help of local and foreign liaisons, he managed to arrange a meeting. Gertler persuaded Kabila to give him exclusive rights to all the country’s diamond exports.

It wasn’t as difficult as it might sound. Kabila desperately needed cash. Gertler offered to pay $20 million for the monopoly. Kabila accepted and Gertler established IDI (International Diamond Industry), a branch of DGI, in Congo. Kabila had one additional small request: security advice. Gertler did not want to say no, but lacked experience and understanding in security affairs.

In a chance meeting at a wedding in Israel, he got to know Yossi Kamisa, who had been a master sergeant in the Border Police anti-terrorism unit (known as Yamam in Hebrew). Kamisa persuaded Gertler that he was not only a daring fighter but also a first-rate military strategist who could create a modern army for Kabila out of thin air and thus enable him to consolidate his power. The details of the agreement between the two remain in dispute. A year ago Kamisa sued Gertler for NIS 2.55 million, for breach of contract. In the suit he said he had met Gertler through Avigdor Lieberman. (Lieberman declined to respond to this article.) Gertler denied this, saying there was no foundation to Kamisa’s demands, but agreed to pay him NIS 1.4 million in return for Kamisa’s written retraction of all his allegations. The retraction persuaded Judge Adi Azar, in one of his last decisions before he was murdered (his murder had nothing to do with this case) to reject Kamisa’s suit outright.

The court case exposed the fact that in place of Kamisa, Gertler had hired the services of a more highly regarded expert, Major General (res.) Avigdor (Janusz) Ben Gal. Ben Gal, in turn, brought in another retired major general, then unemployed, Meir Dagan, who had tried his luck in arms deals in Africa and is now the chief of the Mossad espionage agency. The three – Gertler, Ben Gal and Dagan – flew to Kinshasa to meet with Kabila and impress him with their know-how. According to documents of the Defense Ministry, Ben Gal contacted Israel Military Industries, which then asked the ministry for permits to conduct negotiations to export light arms and ammunition and train the Presidential Guard in Congo. The documents also indicate that little came of this adventure. Defense Ministry data show that in 2001-2002 light arms worth only $700,000 were sold to Congo. (Ben Gal declined to respond to this article.)

In the wake of the reports generated by Kamisa’s suit, Gertler claimed that he was not involved in any arms deals. He says he brought in Ben Gal in order to advise the Congolese government how to improve security at the mines and prevent diamonds from being smuggled out of them. This is a claim commonly made by diamond merchants and other businessmen who find themselves in similar situations. In the view of international human rights organizations and investigative journalists, such actions perpetuate the rule of despots.

A United Nations commission that investigated the plunder of Congo’s natural resources by the armies of Rwanda and Uganda, cited Gertler and his business dealings in two reports. According to these documents, Gertler reneged on his original offer and paid only $3 million for the export rights. However, Gertler and Leibowitz inundated the UN with documents intended to show that they had honored the agreement and transferred the entire amount to Kinshasa. The world body was apparently persuaded – its latest report on the subject no longer mentions Gertler or his Congo-based company.

In January 2001, Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard, and his son seized power. Joseph Kabila, who says he wants to stabilize Congo and democratize it, sought to show good will to the West. In April 2001, under pressure of the International Monetary Fund, which objects to monopolies, and because of competition from other diamond merchants (Israelis and Lebanese), who were envious of Gertler’s success, Kabila revoked Gertler’s monopoly. The main beneficiary of this development was Lev Leviev. The opening of the Congolese market to competition enabled him to obtain a hefty slice of the diamond exports from Angola. But Gertler, not one to capitulate, looked hard for a way to resume his operation in Congo.

The Washington connection

In 2003, Gertler signed a contract that once more made him a key player in the Congolese diamond market. According to Newsweek, the contract was secret and its existence was revealed only because of a dispute between Congo’s minister of mines and his deputy. The contract was actually signed between Emaxon Finance Corporation, a Canadian firm controlled by Gertler (and also by Leibowitz, according to some reports) and MIBA, the government diamond company of Congo. Under the terms of the contract, Gertler organized a $15 million loan to MIBA for the purchase of mining equipment. In return, he received a franchise to export 88 percent of MIBA’s diamonds, which he purchases at a 5 percent discount.

This new agreement also sparked controversy in Congo. According to Newsweek, the former minister of mines termed it “terrible.” The magazine added that Gertler obtained the contract because of the good relations he re-established with President Kabila. Gertler, for his part, in a letter to Newsweek, said he was proud of his ties with the president but denied that the contract was signed secretly or was attained by underhanded methods. His confidants emphasized that in their view, criticism of the former minister, who was fired, stemmed from personal motives.

In the letter, Gertler also describes his generous donations to charities in Congo. He has told his confidants that he is truly affected by the country’s distress. The proof is that he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fund for AIDS sufferers. However, he has not forgotten his roots. Gertker is financing the Chabad House in Kinshasa, which operates in a community of some 250 families of Israelis and Jews. Chabad House supplies the food for Gertler, Leibowitz and PR man Horev when they visit Kinshasa.

Since then, Gertler’s business dealings in Congo have grown. He has purchased a diamond mine, which is being readied for operation. He also received, together with the Canadian company BHP and De Beers, a franchise to mine diamonds. But the relations between Gertler and Leibowitz and Kabila go beyond diamond deals. They also want to help their admired leader and improve his country’s poor image in the corridors of power in Washington.

In 2002, the president authorized Gertler and the Brooklyn-born Leibowitz to act on his behalf with the U.S. administration. The two met with Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser and now secretary of state. She sent them to Jendayi Frazer, a former student of hers who was then responsible for Africa on the National Security Council and is today the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. The two guests asked Frazer to help Kabila and reduce the pressure he was under from human rights organizations.

Frazer’s meeting with the two Israeli diamond merchants drew criticism from the State Department. Whether thanks to their lobbying or not, President George Bush in November 2003 hosted Kabila in the White House. The two have also said on several occasions that their activity is helping to establish peace in Congo.

For Gertler, Congo and the close ties with Kabila were an important springboard. He serves as honorary consul of Congo in Israel. Thanks to his ties and the reputation he has gained in Congo, he also succeeded in penetrating the Angolan market. The fact that Sindika Dokolo, the husband of Isabel dos Santos, is a citizen of Congo, also helps.

Isabel is a member of a group called Futungo, a mysterious and highly powerful elite consisting of about 200 families of government officials and army officers concentrated around the president. The group enjoys fat commissions from trade in oil and other raw materials. When the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations refer to the billions of dollars missing from the state coffers, they point out that the money went into the pockets of this group.

To conquer Angola, Gertler is also drawing on his ties with Gaydamak. The size of the franchise Gertler will get in Angola is not yet known, but it is clear that anything he is given will reduce Leviev’s holdings in the country. Sources in Angola say that this is a zero-sum game: the victory of one of them is the rout of the other. Leviev, who refused to comment, explained in the past that he is not envious of the business of other diamond merchants. Not of Gertler, not of Steinmetz and not of anyone else.

However, there is also a widespread view that this is only a pretense by the main players, who in the end prefer to adopt the approach that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” It may well be that Gertler, Gaydamak and Leviev have already decided to carve up the Angola booty among them. Sources in the Diamond Bourse of Ramat Gan say that Gertler is following the very same path that Leviev created, aiming to dominate the entire chain of production of the diamond industry, from mining, export and polishing to the jewelry store.

That comparison irks Gertler. He has only one role model: his grandfather, Moshe Schnitzer. “Like his grandfather,” his parents say, “he has a vision and he has the forbearance to persist in order to achieve the goals he sets himself.” In any event, his activity in Congo, Angola and the United States is imbuing Gertler with a sense of power. From his point of view, he has entered the premier league and is playing on the big boys’ field.

Some insight into Africa Israel Corporation

Some insight into Africa Israel Corporation
Press release, Adalah-NY, 4 November 2010 

The following press release was issued by Adalah-NY on 3 November 2010:

Africa Israel, the flagship company of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, announced this week that it is no longer involved in Israeli settlement projects and that it has no plans for future settlement activities. Africa Israel subsequently denied that this was a political decision. However, in the last few years numerous organizations, firms, governments and celebrities have exerted pressure and severed their relationships with Leviev and his companies over their involvement in settlement construction and other human rights abuses, in response to a boycott campaign initiated by Adalah-NY.

Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace disclosed on Monday that in an official letter to the Coalition, Africa Israel stated “Neither the company nor any of its subsidiaries and/or other companies controlled by the company are presently involved in or has any plans for future involvement in development, construction or building of real estate in settlements in the West Bank.” In follow-up articles in the Israeli media on Monday, Africa Israel said that the statement was “a description of the business today” and that “Africa Israel builds for all the public in Israel, and does not deal in politics or any other policy.”

Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY explained, “Following years of settlement construction, and pro-settlement statements and activities by Lev Leviev, the public announcement by Africa Israel that it has no plans to build Israeli settlements is clearly a result of pressure from the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. This provides concrete evidence of the way in which the BDS movement can change companies’ behavior. But Africa Israel can’t speak out of both sides of its mouth and expect a clean bill of health. Africa Israel must unambiguously renounce settlement activity, and all other involvement in violations of Palestinian rights. And Lev Leviev needs to end his involvement in settlement construction through other companies like Leader Management and Development, as well as his support for human rights abuses in the diamond industry in countries like Angola and Namibia.”

Adalah-NY began a campaign to boycott the companies of Lev Leviev in November 2007 which has since gained support from allies around the world. As a result, the Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch governments have divested from Africa Israel, as have a number of major international investment firms. The British government, UNICEF, Oxfam and CARE have all severed ties with Leviev, and major celebrities have quietly disassociated themselves from him.

From 2000-2008, Danya Cebus, the construction subsidiary of Africa Israel, built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam and Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bilin. In late December 2009, Africa Israel sold Anglo-Saxon Real Estate, a company that sold settlement homes. Another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, still owns and operates the expanding settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. In what is now Tel Aviv, Danya Cebus has supported Israeli efforts to erase Palestinian claims and heritage, by building projects on top of the remains of Palestinian villages like Sheikh Muwanis and Sumail that were ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948. Leviev has also been a donor to two Israeli groups — the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukhara Community Trust — both of which have been involved in expanding Israeli settlements. Leviev has also been rumored to donate to Elad which is taking over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

As recently as 2008 Leviev expressed strong support for Israel’s continued takeover of Palestinian land. In a March 2008 interview in Haaretz daily, reporter Anshel Pfeffer asked Leviev, “Do you have a problem with building in the territories?” Leviev responded, “Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally.” According to an English translation of the same Haaretz interview published in The Jewish Chronicle, Leviev explained, “For me, Israel, Jerusalem and Haifa are all the same. … So are the Golan Heights. As far as I’m concerned, all of Eretz Israel is holy. To decide the future of Jerusalem? It belongs to the Jewish people. What is there to decide? Jerusalem is not a topic for discussion.”

Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for BDS against Israel, which was called for in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights, has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Grant for new Intel fab in Kiryat Gat approved

http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000028871&fid=942

Grant for new Intel fab in Kiryat Gat approved

Intel will receive a 12% grant on $4.4 billion. The investment will generate a net value of $421.8 million for the economy.

Hadas Manor   14 Nov 05   15:35

The Investment Promotion Center has unanimously approved a grant for Intel’s (Nasdaq:INTC) new Fab 28 in Kiryat Gat. The grant will now be sent to the Knesset Finance Committee for approval. The grant is not part of the Investment Center’s regular budget.

 Investment will invest $4.4 billion in the new fab, including a 12% grant. A study by the Industrial Development Bank of Israel (TASE:INDD.P) found the investment worthwhile, even if Intel invests only $3.5 billion. The investment will generate a net value of $421.8 million for the economy, including the creation of 2,400 jobs. Sales by Fab 28 during its production life will be $3.2 billion, all of which are guaranteed exports to Intel overseas.

 The investment in Fab 28 includes $760 million in land and buildings, and $2.74 billion in equipment and installation.

 Investment Promotion Center director Hezi Zaieg said, “This is a strategic decision by Israel to help the semiconductor industry. From the moment a decision was taken that it was worthwhile to support the industry, we must not back down, because the price would be heavy.”

 Zaieg added, “Intel was a catalyst for developing Israel’s semiconductor industry, and for bringing many subsequent foreign investors in other companies, expressing confidence in Israel.”

 Prof. Zvi Hadar, an advisor in the study, said during the discussion, “Israel after Intel is not the same country it was beforehand. Intel’s contribution to Israel’s reputation and industry is influential worldwide.”

 The Industrial Development Bank study on Intel’s Fab 28 was conservative, and did not take into account the fab’s effect on reciprocal procurements by Intel in Israel. Intel made $1 billion in reciprocal procurements when it built Fab 18 in Kiryat Gat, and is expected to make a similar amount for Fab 28.

 Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes.co.il – on November 14, 2005