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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lev Leviev wins legal round in diamond row with Gaydamak

Lev Leviev

LONDON - A court battle between two Israeli multimillionaires who fell out after making a fortune from Angolan diamonds ended on Friday when Arcadi Gaydamak lost his bid to reclaim hundreds of millions of dollars he said he was owed by diamond mogul Lev Leviev. Gaydamak said he would appeal the decision.

The two are among a handful of buccaneering businessmen who have made fortunes in countries like Angola, Congo and Guinea, securing positions of influence that have helped their companies profit hugely from the continent's rich natural resources.

The case, brought by the Russian-Israeli Gaydamak over disputed unpaid commissions and dividends against Uzbekistan-born Leviev, also involved testimony on the roles of a Russian rabbi and an Angolan general - and was heard in London.

It was the latest of a rash of cases brought by billionaires from Russia and the former Soviet republics to the courtrooms of the British capital, revealing at times a clash of cultures - and some less than complimentary comments.

Gaydamak, described by the judge as a "volatile and impulsive character" who was "distinctly prone to exaggeration," became involved in Angolan business and politics in the 1990s. He claimed to have suggested to the Angolan government that it obtain control of the country's diamond industry at the height of the civil war so as to cut off the rebels' flow of cash from so-called "blood diamonds." Angola is one of the world's most significant diamond producers and has long been attractive to traders and buyers. Gaydamak also said he was instrumental in setting up the Angolan Diamond Selling Corporation, which had sole buying rights to Angolan diamonds.

He said he had tried to make Leviev a front man for his activities because of a French inquiry into illegal arms supplies. Gaydamak was later cleared of involvement in such supplies. Speaking by video link from Israel because of an outstanding French tax charge, Gaydamak told the High Court on the first day of the trial that he believed he was entitled to about half of Leviev's diamond assets in Angola. His argument rested on his claim that there was a written agreement between them dated December 2001.

Leviev, who has a home in London and who made his name challenging diamond giant De Beers' monopoly on the sale of rough diamonds, denied signing the agreement. Gaydamak argued that Leviev agreed to hold their joint assets, in particular their share in Ascorp and any income from those assets, on trust in equal shares. Leviev's lawyers argued that those claims were settled through a 2011 agreement between the two in which Gaydamak signed away his rights to the assets. Gaydamak said he was induced to sign it.

High Court judge Geoffrey Vos said in his judgment on Friday: "I find that the 2001 agreement was indeed signed by Mr. Gaydamak and Mr. Leviev, and was a valid and enforceable agreement," but he added that the parties had indeed also entered into a valid and binding settlement that took effect in August of last year. He therefore dismissed Gaydamak's claim. Gaydamak later issued a statement in which he said he would apply for permission to appeal.

Leviev did not escape criticism from the judge, who spoke of his arrogance and his "rewriting the history" by leaving some crucial characters out of the story. Vos said he was conscious that he had "not accepted either side's evidence in its entirety."

Former PM Yitzhak Shamir dies at 96

Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Of all the Israelis that have led Israel since its inception in 1948, Yitzhak Shamir is the only one who was a true zealot. A modest and moderate man with infinite self-control, he was nonetheless a fanatic devotee of his vision of the Jewish people and the Greater Land of Israel. The end, in his eyes, always justified the means.

I covered Shamir during his years as prime minister during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, accumulated many “Shamir hours” in his bureau and - much to the chagrin of many of my colleagues and most of my friends - both liked and admired him. He had what Americans would call “true grit” in his ideological convictions, was undeterred by hardships and unmoved by temptations. He kept his eye on the only ball that mattered to him – the preservation of the Greater Land of Israel – and viewed everything else as subservient diversions. He was one of the last of the “generation of giants” who had fought, often against all odds, for the establishment of the Jewish homeland.

Despite his public image as a dull politician and uninspiring leader, Shamir was a well-read man and an engaging conversationalist who, unlike many of his close-minded and thin-skinned successors, was possessed with enough self-confidence and intellectual curiosity to relish debate and criticism. He had a grudging respect for wily ideologues made in his own image, even if they came from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. The first newspapers he read in the morning were the now-defunct left-wing party organs, Davar and al-Hamishmar; the perennial Soviet foreign minister Andrej Gromyko was one of his adversarial favorites.

He had an instrumental approach to ultra-Orthodox parties and viewed their demands for greater control of religious life as a reasonable price to pay for their support for his right-wing policies. But he miscalculated the vehemence and outrage of American Jewry when he agreed in 1988 to give the ultra-Orthodox exclusive control over conversions, and capitulated in order to appease American Jews, whom he viewed as even more critical to his overall designs.

He disliked “professional politicians” and was no great fan of Shimon Peres, with whom he had forged a six-year national unity partnership at the helm, nor Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud superstar who would eventually take Shamir’s place after his 1992 electoral loss to Yitzhak Rabin. Netanyahu’s slick, American-style politicking was alien to Shamir, and his willingness to grudgingly adopt the Oslo Accords in order to win over centrist voters in the 1996 elections was viewed by Shamir both as betrayal and as a vindication of his earlier mistrust. But he got along famously with Rabin, a fellow straight shooter, who served as Shamir’s tough-minded defense minister until 1990.

Shamir’s most grievous sin, in the eyes of many - including this writer - was his decision to undermine the 1987 London framework agreement reached between his then foreign minister Shimon Peres and Jordan’s King Hussein on the Palestinian problem. Shamir’s refusal to entertain any sort of territorial compromise caused him to terminate the agreement and with it to liquidate the so-called “Jordanian Option” on the West Bank, usher in the first intifada and enable the ascendancy of the PLO and Hamas. It is from this fork in the historic road that Israel has continued on its path of endless confrontation and futile occupation, though for him, of course, these were just momentary hardships in the eternal battle for Jewish survival.

He viewed the West Bank as the hinterland to which millions of Jews from around the world would come to settle. In 1989, he vehemently challenged Peres’ assertion that Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika would keep Soviet Jews in Russia. “Millions will come,” Shamir declared, to Peres’ scorn. It was his utter devotion to these millions and his single-minded adherence to his plan to bring them to Judea and Samaria – a scheme that the immigrants themselves did not follow - that propelled Shamir into the head-on confrontation with President George Bush over loan guarantees that may have cost him his job.

His decision to refrain from retaliating against Iraqi missile attacks in the first Gulf War as well as his acquiescence, after months and months of wrangling that infuriated Washington, should also be viewed, first and foremost, as tactical maneuvers aimed at warding off pressure and preserving Israel’s hold on the occupied territories. He fended off criticism from both the left and the right by waving his hand and exclaiming “nu, tov” before going back to his main objective.

His black-or-white, good vs. evil, Jew vs. non-Jew outlook was forged in his youth in anti-Semitic Poland, sculpted by his membership in the hardline Revisionist youth movement Beitar and seared into his consciousness by his story of the death of his father, who was stoned to death by non-Jewish Poles while trying to escape the Nazis, just outside his then-Polish birthplace of Ruzhany in modern Belarus.

He was a man of iron will, absolute determination and supreme ruthlessness. He salvaged the crumbling pre-state Lehi underground movement after the death of its founder, Avraham Stern, planned and expanded its policy of terror and assassination, ran from British authorities, lived in disguise and once hid for many months, completely alone and totally vigilant, in the orange groves north of Tel Aviv, near the Mediterranean Coast. It is in these years that he learned to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself, and to remain eternally suspicious of both enemies and friends.

Though many might view his ascendancy to the premiership as an accident of history, I tend to believe that it was the inevitable result of the sheer unstoppable brute force of his iron will. He never abandoned the vows that he took in the pre-State underground, and he forever abided by the line penned by Stern in the Lehi anthem: "We serve our cause for the length of our lives, a service which ends with our breath."

On Saturday, in Tel Aviv, Shamir was finally discharged from his service.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yated Ne'eman war rages in the ultra-Orthodox backyard

In the intensive care unit at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center one night mid-June, doctors were trying to prolong the life of a 102-year-old man who has been hospitalized there for the past several months. This evening, live every other during this period, in the corridor outside the unit, relatives and yeshiva students gathered and prayed for the speedy recovery of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most important leader in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Israel.

Meanwhile, in the editorial offices of Yated Ne'eman in Bnei Brak, a succession battle was in progress: screaming, shouting, fistfights, attempts by the "old guard" administration to physically hold up the printing presses, and the summoning of police cars. The next morning, much to the old guard's chagrin, it was clear that the paper had been successfully printed and distributed. The front page carried an open letter announcing a new "Maran" (Aramaic for "our master, our teacher" ), a successor to Rabbi Elyashiv: Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman of Bnei Brak. (The editors did, however, take pains to print above the letter a call to the public to continue praying for the old Maran's recovery. )

During its 27 years of existence, Yated Ne'eman, the daily newspaper of the "Lithuanian" Jewish community (the leading ideological group in the non-Hasidic Haredi world ), molded public opinion in Haredi society in Israel, which in turn molded the newspaper. Today, it is a battleground in which two factions are fighting for supremacy. One is led by Rabbi Shteinman, 98, and the other is led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, 85, from Jerusalem. Each of these two rabbis sees himself as the bearer of the torch that Rabbi Elyashiv, who has been dubbed the "posek hador" (the authoritative interpreter of Jewish law ) of his generation, has carried up to now but on which he is slowly losing his grip.

On issues unrelated to the Haredi community, Shteinman and Auerbach give the impression of being members of the same conservative-minded club. However, from the standpoint of Haredi ideology, there is a wide abyss between them. The Bnei Brak faction, which is active in the "Lithuanian street," launched an internal coup that is still in progress. It began with a quiet process that took place over a number of weeks, during which Shteinman loyalists, headed by New York businessman Shimon Glick, took over the newspaper's administration. Three weeks ago, they completed the takeover with the ousting of editor-in-chief Nati Grossman and two rabbis from the paper's "spiritual committee." A few days later, they also fired Yated Ne'eman's general manager, Yaakov Labin.

Although the Grossman-Labin camp is struggling to regain control of the newspaper, in many sectors of the Haredi community one can hear a huge sigh of relief. The people who have been dismissed are perceived as a band of zealots who conducted their own version of the Spanish Inquisition: When they were at the helm of Yated Ne'eman, they ejected from the public arena countless numbers of Haredi Jews, figuratively burning them at the stake. Anyone they suspected as having deviated from the norms of Haredi society, or of having weakened its sacred ideal, became the target of vicious articles and exposes whose agenda was clear. Or, alternatively, their names just stopped appearing in Yated Ne'eman.

Because of their loyalty to Auerbach, the newspaper's top brass paid scant attention to other rabbis considered to be gedolei hador ("leaders of their generation"), especially Shteinman, and instead provided wide coverage for the rabbis belonging to the Jerusalem faction under Auerbach's leadership.

Benny Rabinowitz, a journalist with the newspaper since its launch, makes no secret of his loyalty to Shteinman and his anger at the way he was treated at Yated Ne'eman. Rabinowitz describes the former managers as "clerks who pretended they were the owners, who forgot that they were clerks, and who continued to think they owned the paper. Their behavior reminds me of [the late deposed Libyan leader Muammar] Gadhafi, who continued to claim that he was still in charge even after the rebels had captured him."

Rabinowitz states categorically: "Yated Ne'eman, which, at a certain stage was abducted by clerks who belong to the margins of the Lithuanian Jewish community, has finally been restored to rabbinical control."

The other camp, however, is waging a determined battle to return to the helm. An Israeli court issued a restraining order against Labin, instructing him to stay away from the newspaper's editorial offices, after a fistfight broke out two weeks ago.

In a widely publicized move, though not a precedent in the Lithuanian Jewish world, Labin turned to the secular Israeli judicial system for relief rather than to a rabbinical court, as is customarily done in Haredi society and as was always prescribed by the newspaper's founders. In the name of the nonprofit association that operates Yated Ne'eman, he asked the court to issue a restraining order to keep Glick, who is now chairman of Yated Ne'eman's board, away from the editorial offices and to order Glick's people off the premises.

"A gang of outlaws that is headed by Glick and which has never had any ties either with the company or the newspaper," it is stated in the writ requesting the restraining order, "has joined the ranks of persons who currently officiate on the board of directors and has attempted to unlawfully seize control of the company."

The court rejected the request, but it did cancel the restraining order against Labin. In the meantime, it appears the Auerbach camp has despaired of ever being able to resume control of the newspaper. At an emergency meeting it held in Bnei Brak, the Auerbach camp declared that yeshiva students must immediately cancel their subscription to Yated Ne'eman.

It set the tone

The paper plays a key role in the Haredi theology of Da'at Torah ("knowledgeable opinion of the Torah" ), according to which there is only one truth and it is to be found exclusively in the hands of the "leader of the generation." This religious argument and the brutality demonstrated by members of the Lithuanian community created a situation in which the positions expressed in Yated Ne'eman regarding any issue - whether religious, political, educational or public - set the tone not only within that community and its political party, Degel Hatorah, but in all of Haredi society, including Shas and the various Hasidic groups. The newspaper determined what Haredi Jews in Israel should fight for and whom they should remove from positions of power.

Yated Ne'eman was the brainchild of Rabbi Eliezer Menachem Schach, who founded it to serve as a watchdog that would attack anyone suspected of being willing to make compromises or of having strayed from the prescribed path; the newspaper's targets included Chabad Lubavitch, Shas and members of the Lithuanian Jewish community who worked for a living and who have recently been insultingly dubbed as "New Haredim." Armed with his pen, Grossman showed zero tolerance for anyone who did not meet his standards.

Rabbi Schach (1898-2001 ) was one of the founders of the Haredi community in Israel after the Holocaust. He believed that Torah scholars should be accorded a higher social standing than Haredi Jews who worked for a living, and who, in Haredi parlance, are referred to as "ba'alei batim" or laypeople. The project succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, and turned Torah scholars into the perfect match for any student of the Haredi community's female teachers colleges.

From its founding, Yated Ne'eman attempted to emphasize a sharp difference between Torah scholars and Haredi Jews who worked for a living, whom it presented as inferior. In addition, the newspaper launched savage ideological attacks on Sephardi Jews, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Chabad, religious Zionists and the settlers.

Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community were disgusted by this Haredi version of McCarthyism and believed that Shteinman would put an end to it. For years, Shteinman, known to be a pragmatist regarding the idea of yeshiva students going to work, has made strenuous efforts to eradicate his image as a "reformer." This image was created after he agreed, in the 1990s, to cooperate with various initiatives designed to promote a dialogue between the Haredi community and mainstream Israeli society, such as the Kinneret Covenant, the Nahal Haredi (a division of ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the Israel Defense Forces' Nahal Brigade ) and the Tal Commission.

Shteinman's present leadership is a far cry from reformist, and focuses on Haredi society rather than on the rift with the non-Haredi Jews in Israel. Interior Minister and Shas leader Eli Yishai is a frequent guest in the home of Rabbi Shteinman, who also often hosts representatives of Chabad Lubavitch.

Today, it is Schach loyalists who are the ones complaining that they have been robbed of both their leadership and Yated Ne'eman. "Rabbi Schach left a legacy," says a senior member of the defeated camp. "He formulated a clear ideology. There is a continuity to the Torah that the entire Haredi community believes must be passed on from generation to generation. However, there is now the feeling that any new king can reverse sanctified principles.

"Rabbi Shteinman's followers can argue that Rabbi Schach's approach does not suit them and that they therefore want to publish their own newspaper. They can publish a letter calling on all Yated Ne'eman subscribers to burn their subscriptions. However, it is not legitimate to seize control of the newspaper itself. This is an attempt to capture the queen when the king is right there in the palace. It is an attempt to use the instrument Rabbi Schach created in order to further other ideas."

Shteinman's followers argue that, in terms of numerical strength, no comparison can be made between them and Auerbach's followers. As someone who knew Rabbi Schach very well, Rabinowitz recalls that "at the first meeting of the Degel Hatorah Council of Sages [the Degel Hatorah party representing the Lithuanian Jewish community was founded by Rabbi Schach in 1988], Rabbi Shteinman sat to the right of Rabbi Schach."

Last week, at a meeting of Yated Ne'eman workers and in the shadow of the coup at the newspaper, Rabinowitz said (citing one of the Haredi community's senior members, Rabbi Natan Zohavsky ) that the leadership of the community had been proposed to Shteinman several years ago when Rabbi Schach was ailing, but that Shteinman had turned down the proposal. It was only then that Schach's followers turned to Rabbi Elyashiv.

Beyond the historical and legal claims, each party to this dispute is arguing that the other party has dealt a mortal blow to the principle of Da'at Torah. As one member of the Auerbach camp put it, "Da'at Torah has been given a severe blow because of the manner in which the takeover of Yated Ne'eman unfolded. It is hard for the public to accept people from Rabbi Shteinman's camp acting like thieves in the night."

Rabinowitz chuckles: "When Rabbi Schach founded Yated Ne'eman, his approach was clear: The newspaper would have to be subject to the decisions of the newspaper's Spiritual Committee, and the rabbis would have to subordinate themselves to the decisions of the great spiritual leaders of the Children of Israel. The Spiritual Committee is an emissary of those great spiritual leaders, and its role is to show Yated Ne'eman the proper path. In recent years, a situation has been created where, instead of people coming to the great spiritual leaders and asking them what must be done and how, they are now telling the great leaders what they should say. Are we now going to tell the great leaders what Da'at Torah should be? Everything has been turned inside out."

In any event, in the month since the takeover was effected, aside from anointing Rabbi Shteinman as the new Maran, the new Yated Ne'eman has not moved one millimeter from the positions advocated by the old Yated Ne'eman, if only not to arouse suspicion that the new newspaper is guilty of innovation. The first step was to publish Shteinman's views on the induction of yeshiva students into the IDF and on the Plesner Committee, which has been given the mandate to find an alternative to the Tal Law. "There is no room for discussion, and no compromises will be made," the new was quoted as saying. Moreover, the newspaper is continuing with existing campaigns within the Haredi community - for instance, in its published attacks on the independent weekly Mishpaha ("Family" in Hebrew ), or on a job fair organized for the Haredi public.

The anonymous spokesman of the Auerbach camp estimates that the "secular Jewish public is not going to derive much benefit from this revolution. Meanwhile, we are the only ones who are deriving any benefit, because we find it very funny to see how Rabbi Shteinman's followers are pretending to be zealots."

One of Yated Ne'eman's victims is Bezalel Cohen, who grew up in the Lithuanian Jewish community in Israel, is a graduate of a number of yeshivas, and defines himself as a Haredi social activist. According to the newspaper's official line, he has strayed from the path. For several years, he has been launching social initiatives that undermine the official line. For instance, he has encouraged Haredi Jews to obtain a post-secondary secular education, and his attempts to conduct an open discourse in the Haredi public . For these sins, he has directly and indirectly been treated quite harshly by Yated Ne'eman.

In Cohen's view, the "same schism that Yated Ne'eman wanted to create in the 'Lithuanian' community is already happening, but the difference is the size of the factions. Yated Ne'eman's people wanted to be the leaders of the largest faction and to leave the smaller faction out in the cold. What is happening is the precise reverse. The conservative-minded have remained the smaller faction. When they took over the newspaper, Rabbi Shteinman's people did not want to create a schism; they simply wanted to become more dominant. However, the conservatives foolishly decided not to play according to the rules of the game, instead of making peace with the new situation. Their struggle against the new Haredi Jews has backfired because the public is fed up with them. I do not see an option in which they will continue as a unified society."

The schism that Cohen anticipates in the near future in the Lithuanian Jewish community fills him with hope, in light of the initiatives he would like to spearhead: "In my estimate, Rabbi Shteinman, who is not a young man, will not suffocate the public; this is what is important.

"The best thing that is happening to us right now," Cohen continues, "is not that Rabbi Shteinman's standing in the Haredi community in Israel has been enhanced, but that the sword of Damocles has been taken away. I am talking about that sword which Rabbi Auerbach and his people constantly waved over our heads. Reforms can be introduced without a Council of Sages, but it is hard for them to withstand bitter attacks. Today the Lithuanian warriors are becoming powerless; they will not sanction any major wars. Rabbi Shteinman will be one of the signatories to the 'letters' against these initiatives and others that will be considered reformist, but he will not fight those initiatives with sword and spear."

Statements like that are not welcomed by the Shteinman camp; the last thing it needs is the image of being lukewarm. "I believe," says Rabinowitz, "that, if Maran Rabbi Shteinman instructs us tomorrow to conduct a struggle over this or that issue, we will stand as soldiers ready to carry out his orders. For Maran Rabbi Shteinman, struggles and wars are a constraint, not an ideology. When he has to fight, he is a man of war. He conducted an aggressive struggle on the issue of the induction of yeshiva students into the army and he is not prepared to make any compromises on that subject. Maran Rabbi Shteinman is one of the cleverest people I know. All the private and public problems reach his desk and he manages everything brilliantly. If he says that we have to go into battle, he will do so because the struggle will be beneficial; he would never order us to jump headfirst into an empty swimming pool."

One member of the Auerbach camp noted, "What we have been seeing over the past two weeks is the complete reverse of what was anticipated. Yated Ne'eman is publishing things that, if Rabbi Auerbach had authorized them, would have been blocked because they are so extremist. For instance, the statement, in Rabbi Shteinman's name, that the army is a 'very problematic place, where there are many grave violations of the Torah's laws.' And the attacks on the weekly Mishpaha are continuing. All this means that the Shteinman people are behaving like the pig that shows its hooves and declares, 'You see, I'm also a kosher animal.' They know that the 'Lithuanian' public is saying, 'If Yated Ne'eman is going to change its line, we will oppose that.'

"This revolution could produce a situation in which Rabbi Shteinman presents inflexible positions so that he and his people can't be accused of having launched a revolution in order to lead a program of reforms. For many months to come, they will try very hard to publish extremist articles. Ironically, the revolution might lead Yated Ne'eman to an even more extreme position than the one Rabbi Auerbach advocates. The big fear is that all of this is only make-believe, a sham that is intended to hide the bitter pill and that, when the new regime has consolidated its base, it will show its real positions."

On two points, the spokesmen of both factions are in agreement. The first one is that it will be impossible to mend the rift in the "Lithuanian" camp. The second point is that the dramatic changes that have taken place at Yated Ne'eman will not have any impact in the foreseeable future on relations between Haredi Jews and the non-Haredi majority in Israel; it certainly will not promote greater understanding between them. In order to learn what does happen in the more distant future, we will just have to wait for the sequel .

By Yair Ettinger  - Haaretz

Berlin Jewish Hospital Suspends Circumcisions After Court Ruling

BERLIN — Berlin's Jewish Hospital will suspend circumcisions after a German court ruled this week that performing the procedure on religious grounds is unlawful, a hospital spokesman said Friday.

"We are suspending circumcisions until the legal position is clear," Gerhard Nerlich told AFP, citing head of internal medicine Kirstof Graf.

The hospital performs 300 circumcisions a year, a third of which are for religious reasons and the remainder due to medical concerns.

"We regularly performed circumcisions before this ruling but we don't have the legal freedom to do so any more," said Nerlich, adding that two procedures had already been cancelled.

Earlier on Friday German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle weighed in the debate, saying the country protected religious freedom and traditions.

"The ruling on circumcision has provoked annoyance internationally," Westerwelle wrote on his official Twitter account.

"We have to be clear: religious traditions are protected in Germany," he added.

A regional court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm in a judgement which triggered accusations that parents' rights were being trampled on.

The case, which could set a precedent, was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents' wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily and prosecutors charged the doctor.

The court later acquitted the doctor himself of causing harm.

Muslim and Jewish groups along with top Christian clerics have voiced opposition to the ruling.

Westerwelle was also quoted in the Bild's online edition on Thursday saying that Germany "is an open and tolerant country where religious freedom is well established and where religious traditions like circumcision as an expression of religious diversity are protected."

Source:  AFP

Guma Aguiar BIG WIN for missing tycoon's mom in court

Guma Aguiar's mother Ellen (l.) and wife Jamie (r.) appeared in court on Thursday.

The mother of vanished Florida tycoon, Guma Aquiar, has won a legal battle against his wife over control of the missing man’s $100 million estate.

Ellen Aguiar filed a petition seeking control of 35-year-old Guma Aguiar’s assets last week, before the U.S. Coast Guard even called off the search for her son. He was last seen taking his fishing boat out on June 19. It washed ashore on a Fort Lauderdale Beach hours later, empty and with no sign of Guma.

In her petition, filed on June 21 in Broward County Court, Aguiar, 59, originally sought to be the sole conservator. She later revised the documents, requesting Northern Trust assume control, the Sun Sentinel reports.

On Thursday in the same court, 10 lawyers tentatively agreed that Northern Trust should oversee most of Aguiar’s estate. The judge plans to consider the proposal by Tuesday, when the bank is expected to accept control.

Jaime Aguiar, Guma’s wife, had also filed a petition seeking conservatorship, on June 22, according to the newspaper.

In the document, she called her mother-in-law’s filing the day before “wholly premature,” as her husband had been missing for less than 48 hours. She says that the filing was the only way to “protect the interest of herself and her children from what is sadly the latest in a long line of Ellen Aguiar’s pervasive, persistent, and ill-advised attempts to disrupt the home life of Jamie, Guma, and their children and seize control of their finances.”

Jamie also alleges Aguiar had interfered with the police investigation of her missing son, by possibly deleting “critical voice and/or text messages” from Guma’s phone, the petition states.

When her husband’s possible death was discussed on Thursday, Jaime reportedly fled the courtroom in tears.

Guma, who recent reports have painted as a troubled but successful businessman, made his millions in the oil and gas business and had four children with Jaime.

Guma’s mother has said Jaime asked her son for a divorce in the hours before he went missing, suggesting that it may be a factor in his disappearance.

“[She] thinks he went off the deep end and got on the boat depressed [and then] jumped, fell, or is somewhere clinging to life,” Aguiar’s attorney Richard Baron told ABC News.

Aguiar insists her filing was “not a power grab,” according to the Sun Sentinel. She told the newspaper she doesn’t rely on her son’s financial support and is only trying to “do what’s right.”

Aguiar says she simply wants to protect her son’s assets and make sure business operations are run and bills and salaries are paid.

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Brooklyn D.A.'s Docs Show No Effort To Extradite Mondrowitz

Avraham Menderovitch

For years, Avrohom Mondrowitz counseled children out of his home in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. He was host of a call-in radio show popular among ultra-Orthodox Jewish listeners, claiming to be a rabbi and psychologist. But law enforcement officials say Mr. Mondrowitz, who fled to Israel in 1984 to avoid arrest, was also something else: “a compulsive pedophile.”

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, has repeatedly said that since taking office in 1990, he has vigorously tried to extradite Mr. Mondrowitz. Mr. Hynes has said his office was instrumental in bringing about a change in a treaty between the United States and Israel in 2007 that had thwarted early extradition efforts.

But newly disclosed documents from Mr. Hynes’s office cast doubts on his accounts of his role in the case, suggesting that for many years, the office paid little attention to it.

Michael Lesher, a writer and lawyer who represents several of Mr. Mondrowitz’s accusers, obtained 103 pages of files on the case from the district attorney’s office after a protracted court battle to secure them under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

“There isn’t a single e-mail, a single letter, a single memo, either originating from the D.A.’s office or addressed to it, that so much as mentions any attempt by the D.A. to seek a change in the extradition treaty,” Mr. Lesher said. “It’s just inconceivable that such important negotiation on such a detailed issue could have taken place and not left a trace in the documentary record.”

Mr. Hynes has long been criticized by advocacy groups representing victims of child sexual abuse, who claimed that he was too accommodating of politically influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis, many of whom teach that such crimes should be handled by rabbinical authorities.

Scrutiny of his office intensified last month after articles in The New York Times raised questions about his handling of sexual abuse cases among the ultra-Orthodox.

Mr. Hynes has defended his record, but after the articles were published, he promised to push for legislation making it mandatory for rabbis to report abuse. He also set up a task force to crack down on witness intimidation, which has stymied many sexual abuse cases in the community.

The Mondrowitz case has long been one of the most notorious child sexual abuse cases in Brooklyn.

Mr. Mondrowitz was charged with molesting five boys, but Amy Neustein, editor of the book “Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities and Child Sex Scandals,” which includes a history of the case, said she believed he had at least 100 victims.

Mr. Mondrowitz, now 64, has denied the charges.

The first efforts to extradite Mr. Mondrowitz, made in the mid-1980s by Mr. Hynes’s predecessor as district attorney, Elizabeth Holtzman, failed after the Israeli authorities ruled that the extradition treaty did not cover sodomy.

After the treaty was amended in 2007, an Israeli court ordered Mr. Mondrowitz to be returned to Brooklyn, but the Israel Supreme Court reversed the decision in 2010. In its ruling, the court said the long delay in amending the treaty had created a “substantive violation” to Mr. Mondrowitz’s right to a fair trial, according to a United States Justice Department summary of the decision. The court said that the treaty could have been changed much earlier.

Over the years, Mr. Hynes has often said in interviews that he has placed a priority on pursuing Mr. Mondrowitz.

In 2009, he said on the syndicated radio show “Talkline with Zev Brenner” that his office, led by Rhonnie Jaus, the chief of his sex crimes bureau, “convinced the State Department to bring the case to the Israeli government to change the extradition treaty.”

Mr. Hynes reiterated his stance in an e-mail to The Times this week. A spokeswoman for the State Department said information to confirm Mr. Hynes’s assertions was not readily available and would have to be researched.

Federal officials, not local ones, negotiate extradition treaties, but the new documents obtained by Mr. Lesher provide no evidence that Ms. Jaus or anyone in the office tried to lobby American or Israeli authorities to change the extradition rules.

In an interview this week, Ms. Jaus said that the documents released to Mr. Lesher did not show the full scope of the office’s efforts, noting that more than 280 pages in the file were withheld. The office said in a letter to Mr. Lesher that the pages that were withheld consisted mainly of internal agency documents, like memos between staff members.

Ms. Jaus, who has been chief of sex crimes since 1992, said she did not get involved in the case until 2000, when the State Department alerted her that Mr. Mondrowitz was trying to return to the United States. Hopes of arresting him ended when he failed to arrive, she said.

Asked what she did to lobby for treaty changes, she said her office made occasional calls to the Justice Department, mainly to check on the status of negotiations over the treaty. The first call was in 2000 to review the history of the case, she said, followed by another in 2003 and two calls in 2006.

“If you can’t extradite him because of an existing treaty, what can you do?” she said. “But our position was very well known: We always wanted to extradite this person.”

Dressing With Faith, Not Heat, in Mind

Hasidic Jews, prominent in Borough Park, Brooklyn, say they have learned to live comfortably in all seasons with their attire, as dictated by tradition
When the mercury passes 90, most New Yorkers start to wilt. Many resort to shorts and tank tops, even in the office. More than a few bankers and lawyers reach for their seersuckers.

Yet amid all the casual summer wear, in some neighborhoods more than others, Hasidic men wear dark three-piece suits crowned by black hats made of rabbit fur, and Hasidic women outfit themselves in long-sleeved blouses and nearly ankle-length skirts. To visibly cooler New Yorkers, they can look painfully overdressed.

Some New Yorkers who are not Hasidic surely ask themselves: How on earth do they stay cool?

The answer is a mix of the spiritual and, yes, the creatively physical. The Hasidim will tell you they have learned to live comfortably in all seasons with their daily attire.

“I think I’m not as hot as other people because the sun is not on me,” said Chany Friedman, who was shopping recently in Borough Park, Brooklyn, with two of her five children in tow, wearing a sweater and dense stockings in addition to other concealing clothing. “If I’m covered, the sun is not on me. I’m happy that I’m not exposed to the world.”

Using a Hebrew name for God, she added, “That’s what Ha-Shem wants from us.”

In the Hasidic world, the traditional fashion code and interpretations of ancient Jewish law dictate modesty for a woman — a concept known as tzniut — so even on sizzling days women conceal their necks, arms and legs, and married women don wigs, head scarves or turbans to hide their real hair. While Hasidic men do not feel the modesty obligation to the same degree, they believe that it is a mark of humility and respect for others to dress formally when encountering the world.

They also found some humor in the question about the Hasidic wardrobe.

“Does anybody ask a congressman why he walks into Congress with a suit or a Wall Street executive why he goes to work in a suit?” asked Isaac Abraham, a leader in the Satmar Hasidic community.

Hot and cold is all in the mind anyway, argued Shea Hecht, a Lubavitch Hasid who heads the movement’s educational outreach arm. In his dark suit and gray fedora — Lubavitch garb differs from that of other Hasidim, though it is still conservative — he sometimes chuckles at people in Bermuda shorts.

“Why are they spending so much money on only a half a pair of pants?” he said. (Cue rimshot.)

Still, Hasidim have found subtle ways to beat the heat.

In Borough Park, women snatch up neckline-hugging shells that allow them to wear thin, long-sleeved and open-necked blouses from, say, Macy’s. Hasidic men seek a frock coat made of lighter-weight, drip-dry polyester, without a shape-holding canvas lining, and lightweight weaves in the fringed, four-cornered, woolen poncho known as tzitzit, a daily version of the prayer shawl that is worn over a white shirt. Also, men will go jacketless when working or driving, though any substantial stroll along a public sidewalk requires a suit jacket or frock coat, known in Yiddish as a rekel or in its longer and fancier Sabbath version as a bekishe.

Even the shtreimel, the tall, cylindrical, Russian sable hat that Hasidic men wear on the Sabbath to dignify the day, has been modified in recent years, with holes in the crown to provide a kind of ersatz air-conditioning. Those innovations may not seem to offer that much relief, but in Hasidic philosophy, it is more important to please God.

Beyond the law, the identifiable style of Hasidic clothing — even some waggish Hasidim call it a uniform — serves many purposes. It honors the way ancestors dressed in Europe starting in the 18th century, when the Hasidic movement was founded by sages who sought more joyous fervor in observance that could be expressed by the common folk. Many dress patterns, like the round, fur hats and knee-length frock coats, imitated the attire of the nobility. A style adopted by a movement’s grand rabbi filtered down through ardent acolytes.

“The equation of burden doesn’t come into play, when that’s the tradition you’re brought up in,” said Amram Weinstock, 65, a Satmar Hasid who was shopping at G&B Clothing in Borough Park, a store with racks of suits, in numbers to rival Brooks Brothers, although these suits come only in shades of black, navy blue and gray. “We are happy to live that tradition and feel uplifted by living that sort of life,” Mr. Weinstock said. “This is how our parents went; this is how our grandparents went.”

Dark, austere clothing also serves to identify Hasidim and separate them from the rest of the world, which helps keep members inside the fold. Even eyeglass frames tend to be distinctive: black and heavy, not streamlined designer styles.

Another Hasid at G&B checking out the frock coats, which sell for $149 in summer versions and $250 in heavier, winter styles, acknowledged a down side to the customary dress.

“You shvitz!” the man said, using the Yiddish word for sweat. But his “what’s the big deal?” expression seemed to shrug off the problem as a piddling price to pay for a virtuous lifestyle.

Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York who specializes in Orthodox Jewry, pointed out that Hasidim did not spend idle time outdoors, at best going “from the shop to the yeshiva to the study hall to the house.”

“They spend a lot of time indoors, and they’re not Amish or Luddites, so they have air-conditioning,” Dr. Heilman said.

Hasidim believe that casual time outdoors exposes them to the temptations of the streets, not the least of which are skimpily dressed New Yorkers, said Alexander Rapaport, a Hasid who runs the Masbia soup kitchens in Brooklyn and Queens.

Some Hasidim contended, as Mrs. Friedman did, that concealing clothing kept them cooler.

“Look at Bedouin,” said Nuchem Sanders, who owns a hat shop in Borough Park where members of an Ecuadorean family block and stitch the trademark Hasidic black hats. “They live in the desert and they have layers of clothing. Why? It protects them from the heat.”

The tzitzit, the fringed ritual garment, adds another layer for men on a torrid day, so Jacob Roth, of Malchut Judaica, one of the largest distributors of prayer shawls, is working on some remedies. For the Sabbath, he has come up with a summertime wool version that is half the weight — “light as an eagle” is its name in Yiddish. It can be accompanied by an imitation silver collar band to replace the heavy band of real silver that the most traditional insist upon.

For daily wear, he has secured a sleeveless undershirt with slits and fringes at four corners; it is made of cotton and eliminates the need for a separate T-shirt. The brand name is PerfTzit. It has taken off in the wider Orthodox community, particularly among children, but the most exacting Hasidim will not wear it because they insist on wearing tzitzit over white shirts and also prefer wool to cotton. Mr. Roth is working on finding a version that they can wear when parched.


Police: Two Women Found Shot In The Head In Chinatown Apartment After Fire

NEW YORK  – A fire inside a Chinatown apartment is believed to have been set to cover up an apparent double homicide, officials said.

When firefighters arrived at the building at 83 Henry Street at 10:40 a.m. they thought they were responding to a routine fire call in a first-floor rear apartment, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported.

Instead, firefighters discovered something far more violent, Kramer reported.

“We went in, we extinguished what was relatively a minor fire involving a mattress and some floor boards,” Commander James Esposito said. “We pulled out what we thought were two people overcome by smoke but it turned out they probably sustained some type of gunshot wound or wounds.”

The two Asian women, who are believed to be in their 40s or 50s, were both shot in the head, police confirmed with 1010 WINS.

Two fires had been set in the apartment; one in the kitchen and another in the bedroom, firefighters said .

The investigation is ongoing.

Michael Marin DIED in court after 'taking pill' as he was found guilty of torching his $3million home

PHOENIX - Did this convicted arsonist poison himself in court? Michael Marin appeared to have swallowed something after hearing the guilty verdict.

Minutes later, he collapsed and died.

This was already a bizarre case even before the drama in the court room.

Michael Marin set his Biltmore mansion on fire because he couldn't afford the mortgage. He was found outside of the burning mansion -- he escaped a second floor bedroom wearing scuba gear.

Michael Marin entered the courtroom at 12:43 Thursday afternoon. The only thing he appeared to have in his hands is a drink bottle. He took a drink before sitting at the defendant's table.

Two minutes later, Marin heard the jury's verdict.

"We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oath, do find the defendant Michael James Marin guilty of arson of an occupied structure."

Marin dropped his head into his hands in despair. He then slid his hands up and appeared to place something in his mouth.

He then sat back. Nothing seems out of the ordinary at this point. The court proceedings go on.

About 5 minutes later, he placed that drink bottle on the table. Once again buried his face in his hands, and for a second time appeared to place something else into his mouth.

A closer look shows he swallowed several times.

At 12:52, Marin took a final drink. A few seconds later, he turned to talk to the people sitting behind him.

A woman handed him tissue, and it's a downward spiral from there.

He began to convulse at first lightly. But quickly it grows more violent. His attorneys called for help.

Marin hunched over, slowly collapsing to the ground as others rushed in to help. Someone asked for someone to call 911 and several people ran to help him.

About 10 minutes later, cell phone video captured paramedics wheeling Marin into an ambulance. He was later declared dead.

From the video from inside the courtroom, it looks like a suicide, that Marin put some toxic substance into his mouth.

"They are leaning towards that obviously if you watch the video it looks like he does put something in his mouth," said MCSO spokesman Jeff Sprong.

"We cannot verify that at this point and we're not going to be able to until the toxicology report comes back."

That won't be for two weeks, so what happens in the meantime?

"We're going to look at everything he had on him just because it looks like he's putting something in his mouth we don't know really what he did prior to that. He could do that to make us think he was taking something and he wasn't and he did something else."

Detectives also will talk to anyone close to Marin including attorneys, family members or friends who might know something, anything about what happened in that courtroom this afternoon.

"We will obviously contact family to see if this is something he hinted at doing, maybe he left a note you know, it just needs to be thoroughly investigated then hopefully we'll find out why he did it and what he did," said Sprong.

"This is something new that I've never seen and I'm sure the courts haven't seen it, I'm sure they'll do everything they can do to ensure it doesn't happen again."

He faced up to nearly 16 years in prison if he was convicted.

Katie Holmes files for divorce from Tom Cruise after five years of marriage


Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have sensationally revealed they are divorcing after five years of marriage.

The Hollywood superstar, 49, said he was ‘deeply saddened’ that his younger wife, 33, had filed for a separation.

He revealed the former Dawson's Creek actress had initiated the split, bringing a dramatic end to one of Hollywood's most high-profile romances.

In a surprise move, Miss Holmes is understood to have filed for sole custody of the couple's daughter Suri, six.

'This is a personal and private matter for Katie and her family,' Holmes's lawyer Jonathan Wolfe said in a statement to People magazine.

'Katie's primary concern remains, as it always has been, her daughter's best interest.'

A spokesperson for Cruise, who is currently in Iceland filming his new sci-fi movie Oblivion, said: 'Kate has filed for divorce and Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children.'

The actress filed documents in New York this week citing 'irreconcilable differences'.

She has asked for legal custody, primary residential custody and a 'suitable amount' of child support from her husband, TMZ reports.

In addition she has asked for the division of their property, although no mention of their pre-nuptial agreement is mentioned in the documents. The couple are worth around $275 million - much of that owing to Tom's box office success.

Cruise is believed to have 'not seen' the divorce coming.

But sources insist that she did tell her husband of five-and-a-half years that she was filing for divorce – but she didn’t give him a chance to control the spread of the news, as he did with Nicole Kidman.

The fact that she issued a solo statement speaks of some heat around the final extinguishing of the marriage.

The pair have not been seen together in public for almost three months - they were last pictured on April 5 while in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Miss Holmes failed to turn up to at any of the worldwide premieres of her husband’s latest film Rock of Ages, despite Cruise’s constant protestations of love for his wife.

The final arguments seem to have been over where Cruise was going to spend his 50th birthday on Tuesday.

He told her that he was planning to be on the set of his latest film Oblivion in Iceland and that seems to have been the last straw for her.

The statuesque brunette had frequently been pictured looking drawn and exhausted during her marriage. One Hollywood source said she had been ‘utterly miserable with Tom for months, if not years’.

Indeed, the row over his birthday followed another bust-up over what Miss Holmes felt were embarrassingly bad taste pictures of him on the cover of W magazine last month.

He was dressed – or rather undressed – as the rock star Stacee Jaxx, the character he plays in Rock of Ages. Two half dressed blondes were wrapped around him, one licking his face.

Miss Holmes, a nice girl from Ohio who is nevertheless very aware of why Cruise feels the need to play the macho card in public, was apparently ‘speechless’ with disgust and felt the pictures laid both of them open to ridicule.

Miss Holmes has chosen to stay with Suri in Cruise’s New York apartment while he has travelled the world working.

The little girl has been her constant and only companion. They are often out together until late at night, and Miss Holmes – who gave up all the threads of her old life to become Mrs Tom Cruise – seems to have no other friends at all.

One Hollywood source told said today: ‘It was an open secret that she was utterly miserable with Tom, and had been for months if not years. They really couldn’t drag out the pretence any longer.’

When Cruise was filming Rock of Ages in Miami, Miss Holmes came along with Suri and they made a family holiday of it. But since then they have spent no more than a handful of nights under the same roof.

Miss Holmes, who used to have a poster of Cruise on her bedroom wall, found that being married to an intense, workaholic, and deeply religious megastar was no picnic.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Do Orthodox Jews use drugs? Absolutely.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict,” said Iran’s vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi. “They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

That was part of Rahimi’s long, anti-Semitic screed at an international drug conference in New York on Tuesday, wherein he also claimed “Zionists” (a term Iran uses for Israelis and their Jewish supporters abroad) ordered gynecologists to kill black babies and that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was started by Jews. The speech has been widely denounced, including by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who compared Iran to Hitler’s Germany.

Alun Jones, spokesman for the Vienna-based United Nations Office, shot back that not only is the drug trade “motivated by business and profit,” rather than religion, but that “drug addiction is a health challenge which affects all people, of all kinds, of all race, of all creed.”

There’s no one who knows that better than Joe Levin, who treats Orthodox Jews for drug addiction on a regular basis in New York City.

“I don’t know about Zionist, but do Orthodox Jews use drugs? Absolutely,” says Levin, who runs a rehabilitation center through his consulting company TOT, in a phone conversation this morning. “Unfortunately people are willing to talk about sex abuse and molestation, but everybody is closing their eyes on drugs.”

After a long pause, Levin said there had been more than ten overdoses in the New York Jewish Orthodox community recently, and that many Orthodox Jews frequent clubs where they gamble and take drugs two or three times a week. As vile as Rahimi’s comments were, the dearth of “Zionist” addicts in the public eye is deliberate, according to Levin.

“No one even brings it to the public or discusses it. It’s something very under-the-rug….deep, deep, deep.”

Looks like Rahimi owes Levin some money.

By Nona Willis Aronowitz

Barry Landau gets 7 years prison for rare document theft

Scam: Barry Landau leaves court in Baltimore today after being sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing thousands of documents from historical societies and libraries

BALTIMORE — A presidential memorabilia collector who has acknowledged stealing thousands of rare and valuable documents from historical societies and archives nationwide was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison.

Barry Landau was caught stealing documents from the Maryland Historical Society in July 2011. An investigation concluded the 64-year-old New York City resident stole at least 6,500 items worth more than $1 million from archives around the country.

A number of the stolen documents are more than 100 years old and some are worth more than $100,000. They include copies of speeches President Franklin D. Roosevelt read from during his three inaugurations, a land grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and letters written by scientist Isaac Newton, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and novelist Charles Dickens.

But the stolen artifacts also include smaller items such as photographs of President Calvin Coolidge and World Series baseball tickets from 1949. The earliest document dates from 1479.

"Barry Landau, simply put, tried to steal history for his personal benefit and financial gain. His actions breached a trust once enjoyed, but now lost, between researcher and museum," prosecutors wrote in a document submitted to the court before Landau's sentencing.

Prosecutors recommended a nine-year sentence and said it is likely Landau had stolen items as early as 2003.

Landau told the judge in a brief statement before he was sentenced that he was "deeply ashamed" and "embarrassed" by his actions. Standing with the assistance of a cane, he said he hoped one day to "redeem himself."

In a plea agreement signed in February, Landau acknowledged that he and his now 25-year-old assistant Jason Savedoff visited historical archives in order to steal. They would distract staff, sometimes with cookies and donuts, and simultaneously stuff valuable documents into secret pockets in their clothing. On Wednesday, prosecutors displayed a tan trench coat and navy blazer in court, both of them specially altered by Landau's tailor to contain deep pockets.

The pair, who referred to each other as "weasel 1" and "weasel 2," attempted to cover up the thefts by removing card catalog listings for the items and using sandpaper and other methods to remove museum markings, a process they called "performing surgery."

On Wednesday, prosecutor James Warwick attempted to paint Landau as the leader of the thefts and called Savedoff an "amateur." But one of Landau's attorneys, Andrew White, said it was Savedoff who pushed Landau to steal more valuable documents after the pair met in 2010.

Savedoff has pleaded guilty to theft of major artwork and conspiracy to commit theft of major artwork. No sentencing date has been set.

The parties also disagreed about the extent of the thefts. Prosecutors said it's possible that the full extent of the pair's thefts will never be known, but Landau's attorney said every document has been recovered, including about $46,000 in documents that were stolen and then sold.

Landau has acknowledged stealing documents from at least five institutions in addition to the Maryland Historical Society. They are the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Historical Society, the University of Vermont, the New York Historical Society and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential library in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Court documents also suggest he also stole from the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., as well as from former Clinton White House Secretary Betty Currie, who Landau stayed with as a guest in 2010. Over 250 items belonging to Currie were found at Landau's residence.

Landau is expected to turn himself in to prison authorities in August, and when he gets out of prison, he will spend three years on probation. As a special condition of his release, however, he won't be able to go to an archive or museum without the approval of his probation officer.

Suspect in NJ Synagogue Firebombing Charged With Plot to Kill Prosecutor

The accused instigator of a series of attacks on New Jersey synagogues was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly plotting to kill an assistant prosecutor assigned to his case, authorities said.

Aakash Dalal, 20, of New Brunswick, was arrested in March for his alleged role in the attacks, which included the January firebombing of a house of worship where a rabbi and several family members were sleeping. He has pleaded not guilty.

FBI agents recently began investigating Dalal for allegedly planning to post his $1 million bail and obtain a handgun and kill Assistant Prosecutor Martin Delaney upon his release, said Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli. Authorities got a search warrant for his cell Wednesday, where they found evidence of the alleged plot, Molinelli said.

He was also charged with conspiracy to possess a firearm and terroristic threats, and his bail was set at $3 million, in addition to his existing bail of $1 million. He's due in court Friday.

Dalal's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Molinelli has characterized Dalal as an instigator in the January firebombings, allegedly carried out by then-19-year-old Anthony Graziano. Molinelli has said Graziano was motivated by "anti-Jewish animus, a bias against them; an intent to harm them." He hasn't given a motive for Dalal's alleged actions.

Prosecutors say Graziano and Dalal, who both grew up in the northern New Jersey borough of Lodi, were childhood friends.

Graziano has pleaded not guilty to charges including nine counts of attempted murder. He initially was held on $5 million bail but that was later reduced by a judge to $2.5 million. Dalal, who was enrolled last semester at Rutgers University, is also being held on $2.5 million bail.

 Source:  NBC NY