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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tel Aviv - Two men charged with raping American tourist

Two Jaffa flea market vendors were indicted by the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office Sunday in the rape and assault of an American tourist last week.

The names of the victim, 25, and her attackers are under a gag order.

The woman was allegedly assaulted in a jewelry store in the flea market and then raped in a nearby clothing store in the middle of the day, according to reports.

The woman told investigators she was walking through the market last Monday when she entered one of the stores. 

Once inside, the alleged attacker forced her into a room at the back of the premises where he raped her.

He then took her to an adjacent shop where, together with the second suspect, they performed indecent acts on her, she said.

The prosecution filed a request with the court to hold the men in police custody until the end of the case. It also requested that the court take the woman’s testimony early, so that she can return to the United States.

The two suspects — one man from Ra’anana, 39, and another from Holon, 44 – were arrested on Wednesday.

Simone Weichselbaum, Jewish People of Color

Borough Park - Four Men Wanted For Armed Robbery Sought By NYPD

NEW YORK – Police are searching for four men wanted for a robbery in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn.

According to police, the suspects entered the New Jujian Associates located at 5124 9th Avenue with a gun just after midnight on Friday, June 28.

The suspect with a gun forced the five Asian male victims to the floor while the other suspects took their cash, debit cards and cell phones, police said.

One victim was pistol-whipped during the robbery and was taken to the hospital with a cut to the head.

None of the other four victims were injured in the incident.

The four suspects are all described as black or dark-skinned Hispanic males, according to police.

Anyone with information in regards to this robbery is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Anti-Semitic graffiti found at Kiryas Joel playground

KIRYAS JOEL - State police are asking the public for help after anti-Semitic messages were found all over a playground in Kiryas Joel.

Police say messages of hate were found scrawled all over benches, signs and slides at the playground yesterday.

Investigators are looking at surveillance camera footage, which shows the suspects arriving in a Ford Ranger pickup truck, then crawling under the main gate.

Anyone with information on this hate crime is asked to call New York State Police in Monroe at 845-782-8311.

Manhattan, NY - Helicopter Goes Down In Hudson River

NEW YORK  — New York authorities say a helicopter carrying four Swedish tourists has landed in the Hudson River off Manhattan, but everyone has been rescued.

The incident happened shortly before noon Sunday in the section of the river near 79th Street. The pilot and four passengers were taken to shore.

The fire department says the passengers were two adults and two children from Sweden.

William Parra tells the New York Post he was having brunch nearby when he saw the helicopter.

He says: "Ten feet above the water, and it just went down. There was a huge splash."

In January, a small plane crashed and sank in the Hudson River off Yonkers. Two people were rescued.

In 2009, a US Airways flight landed safely on the Hudson after striking geese. All 155 people aboard survived.

New York News | NYC Breaking News

NYT: Battle For Best Matzoh Brings Satmar Rebbe To Arizona

Yuma, AZ - The ongoing battle for religious one-upmanship between warring factions of New York’s Satmar has plunked a contingency of ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the arid town of Yuma, Arizona, where, for seven weeks, they have painstakingly overseen the harvesting of wheat which they hope will allow them to lay claim to New York’s best matzoh.

A NEW YORK TIMES article profiling the harvest reveals an operation that intricately weaves together strict ultra-Orthodox religious guidelines, modern technology and the science of farming, and if all goes well, the cooperation of Mother Nature.

On a farm owned by a Christian farmer Mr. Tim Dunn, , just five miles from the Mexican border, the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Aaron Teitelbaum, traveled to Yuma, last Monday to give his blessings to the newly harvested wheat, specifically planted in the extremely arid western climate which rarely sees rain in the springtime.

Two rabbis spent seven weeks camped out in trailers abutting the wheat fields, overseeing the forty acres of wheat growing in the southwest corner of Arizona, known for its low humidity and listed by Guinness World Records as the sunniest place on the planet, in order to be able to give assurance that the wheat had not come into contact with moisture of any form, including rain, once it had matured.

Despite scorching temperatures, workers were not allowed to carry water in the wheat fields and the unpaved roads could not be washed down in order to ensure that the wheat stayed completely dry.

The decision by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum on Yuma began five years ago after an exhaustive scientific search of national weather patterns revealed Yuma to be one of the most arid spots in the U.S. during the wheat harvesting season, and with his brother Rabbi Zalman still using wheat harvested on the East Coast, it seemed a natural fit that the dry southern Arizona climate would allow him a “leg up” in claiming that his matzoh adheres to a more rigorous religious standard.

Despite the temperatures estimated to be at 108 degrees, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum the Satmar Rebbe was on site at the wheat fields on Monday, June 24th, giving his blessing to the wheat as the harvest began.  

The grain will be transported by train to Elizabeth, New Jersey after being cleaned and packed into sealed containers and once it arrives in New Jersey the grain will be sent to matza bakeries in both Brooklyn and Kiryas Joel, with baking set to begin five months before Pesach.

Rabbi Eli Hershkowitz, manager of the Rutledge Street Satmar Central Matzoh Bakery, estimates that Brooklyn bakeries will produce 80,000 to 100,000 pounds of matza using the Yuma wheat.

Professor Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at Queens college whose research focuses on Orthodox Judasim described the decision to use wheat grown in the dry heat of the west, instead of the rainy East Coast climate as a form of one-upmanship between the two rival Satmar factions.

“One is always looking to be more authoritative than the other and one of the ways they’re making this happen is over matza,” explained Professor Heilman.  “Our matza is more kosher than yours, we’re more scrupulous and careful over matza baking than you are.”

MONSEY - Activist Group Stages Kosher Market Demonstration Aimed At Easing Community Tensions

Beny Steinmetz World's richest Israeli breaks years-long silence

Beny Steinmetz

"Am I an Israeli?" Beny Steinmetz wonders out loud. "That's a good question."

Sitting at the table, speaking in a swift flow of Hebrew and heavily-accented English, Beny Steinmetz seems as Israeli as falafel. His gaunt, jeans-clad visage and his direct and often impatient talk do not betray his immense wealth.

But the occasional offhand way in which he talks about billion-dollar deals in exotic countries and his personal acquaintance with African rulers hint at his ranking at the top of the world's wealthiest individuals.

Considered the richest Israeli in the world, Steinmetz's shying from the public eye has shrouded him in mystery, deepened even more by the nature and location of most of his dealings, which stretch from Sierra Leone to Kosovo.

Unlike fellow tycoon Lev Leviev, who often deigns to expound on his business with the media, Steinmetz keeps to behind the scenes, even while leaping between his Israeli estates to his businesses worldwide.

It is during his current leap to Israel, for the purpose of visiting his son who serves in an infantry regiment in the IDF, that Steinmetz has uncharacteristically agreed to this interview, one of the few interviews he has given in his life.

This irregular decision to break his long silence was not without motive. Steinmetz and his company, BSGR (Beny Steinmetz Group Resources), are currently embroiled in an alleged corruption affair in Guinea, Africa, and the taciturn tycoon is anxious to defend his and his company's good name.

According to suspicions, BSGR, a mega-corporation involved in resource mining, including diamonds, gold and iron, bribed top government officials to receive prospecting concessions in the poor African country.

One of BSGR's Guinea partners is currently standing trial in the US, and the affair is closely followed by the world's economic media.

Therefore, the media-shy Steinmetz is now haunted by his name, and his photograph appears next to snappy headlines on corruption in Africa, in an affair in which every detail is closely scrutinized and reported.

To this interview he arrived without an entourage, accompanied only by the Dutch CEO of BSGR, and without preconditions, armed only with his convictions.

At the outset, Steinmetz clarified that he was not adept with the details of the affair ("I don't get down to the ground much in Guinea"), but as the conversation progressed he exhibited an impressive familiarity with every aspect and document related to the affair.

It's clear he is troubled. "I was dragged into an insane situation," he says, "and I want to paint a clearer picture."

'Middle-class must be taken care of'

Steinmetz, 57, was born in Netanya. His father was one of Israel's pioneers in the diamond industry, and his son promptly followed in his footsteps after his army service.

Today, 36 years later, he runs a diamond and iron mining empire, and deals in real estate, gas and oil, as well.

His company, BSGR, has a unique corporate structure: It's controlled by a trust fund, of which Steinmetz is a beneficiary. Thus, he does not fill any official role and is "uninvolved," he claims, in the corporation's management.

He prefers to call himself an "advisor" or "emissary" for the group. "I don't make decisions in BSGR," he reiterates. "The group works in many countries and has a very varied activity. I'm not involved in all the activities, but only advise in those I can contribute of myself and of my connections."

The question of Steinmetz's ownership over BSGR, as well as the issue of his Israeli citizenship, has been making the Israeli Tax Authority (ITA) busy over recent years.

According to the ITA, Steinmetz has devised an exceptionally creative tax construction for the corporation, thanks to which he pays too low rates; but Steinmetz claims his tax plan is completely legitimate and stands to all trust fund taxation laws.

Unrelated to taxation, do you define yourself as Israeli?

"I was born here, I went to the army here. My children grew up and went to the army here. I feel international-Israeli. I also have a French passport."

Why don't you leave Israel completely, especially in light of your dispute with the Tax Authority? You have your businesses in Switzerland. Live there.

"I do live there. I don't live here."

But you still have a home in the community of Arsuf.

"What does that have to do with it? I don't have businesses in Israel. My businesses here were no great success. I love this country like any Israeli, but that doesn't matter. There are many Israelis who live abroad and love the country."

Are you emotionally connected to Israel? Do you care what happens here?

"Of course I care, but I don't read Israeli newspapers regularly."

Do you vote?

"No. I don't have an Israeli driver's license or an Israeli ID card."

What do you think about the Israeli anti-tycoon wave?

"I'm not involved. I think it's unnecessary, that it's a shame. I don't think capitalism has been exploited here, though I must say I'm not very familiar with the Israeli market. I don't live here and I'm not involved, but I think anything like hatred and populism isn't right.

"It isn't restricted to Israel, but happens in other countries too. I think success is a good thing, not bad, and I know that no one wants a situation here where big businessmen say, 'I've had enough with Israel. I'm going to invest abroad.' It's very bad for Israeli economy. Success isn't a bad thing."

Nonetheless, isn't a change in priorities warranted?

"Maybe the system needs an overhaul. Maybe more care should be taken with regard to the poor and the middle class, but hating the rich doesn't help. That's my opinion on the matter, but it's not very informed."

'We were naïve'

Steinmetz's Guinea adventure began in 2006. BSGR examined the African country – just as it does many other points on the globe – and decided to get into the picture. Guinea, a former French colony on western Africa, is one of the world's poorest nations. 

Despite the huge potential of its natural resources – including gold and iron – most of its nine million citizens are illiterate, and their life expectancy is below 50 years.

In 2006, BSGR bid and won two concessions to prospect for iron ore in eastern Guinea. They soon made an impressive discovery in a region called Zogota. "We were very excited," smiles Marc Struik, in charge of natural resources in the firm.

"We thought this is a very serious find. At the time, iron ores was a highly valued commodity, and we estimated there were billions of tons of high-quality iron ore. In the end it was much less, but still it's a very special find."

In 2008, Guinea saw a dramatic course of events: The government decided to take part of the mining concessions owned by the Rio Tinto company – an Australian mining giant which held the rights for 12 years – in an area called Simandou, one of the world's largest iron-ore deposits.

BSGR seized the opportunity, filed a request for the prospecting concessions in the area and on December 2008 outbid its competitors and won the coveted concession.

But the deal was crooked, say the firm's detractors: BSGR got the concessions for a paltry sum. They say the company paid nothing – except for ridiculously low tolls – for a huge golden egg, rare resources which belong to the destitute Guineans.

Steinmetz chuckled. "It's the same all around the world," he said. "It's exactly like no one pays anything to the State of Israel for the right to prospect for gas, but only royalties and taxes for the gas itself.

"When you sell a prospecting concession you're only selling potential. You pay tolls for the right to invest and look for something."

How come you won the concession? There were other bidders.

"We proved to them the company works fast, employs a lot of personnel, that we have engineering and financial capabilities and that we came to do business. The government had a lot of positive data on us."

In April 2010, less than two years after winning the concession, BSGR closed one of its largest deals, and inadvertently supplied its detractors with more ammunition: It partnered up with Brazilian mining giant Vale, which bought 51% of the Guinean project for a gargantuan $2.5 billion – $500 million of which Vale promptly anted up.

Not bad for BSGR's initial investment of only $160 million, but also, according to Steinmetz, where the troubles began.

"The problem started probably because of grudge over the sale to Vale. People were saying the BSGR bought property for $100 or $200 million and sold it for $5 billion. It's not true: It sold 10% for $500 million with an option to rise to 51% for an addition $2 billion."

Equipped with a cash-rich partner, Steinmetz's people continued to work vigorously at the promising Guinea project. But meanwhile, the country saw a regime-change: Incumbent President Alpha Condé was elected and with him the positive atmosphere the corporation enjoyed rapidly evaporated.
"At first we were glad about the elections," Steinmetz says bitterly. "We saw that the leader of the Junta which controlled the country relinquished his power with dignity, and we thought it was a good sign for the region's stability. We were naïve."

Can you put your finger on the point in time where you think things started to go wrong?

"I recall in 2011 the company held a ceremony, with Vale's CEO and former Brazilian President Lula da Silva in attendance.

The Guinea project CEO approached me and said, 'Listen, son, there's something strange going on. They haven't invited BSGR to sit with Lula and the president, Alpha Condé.

"I was there as the company's emissary and I didn't think too much of it, but the CEO immediately realized something was wrong."

The second portent appeared two weeks later, when Alpha Condé unexpectedly halted BSGR's works on a train in Guinea, due to its commitment to develop infrastructure in the country as part of the concession deal.

"They said they want to cease the operations because the price is too high," Steinmetz said. "Do you understand how chaotic that place is? What do they care how much it costs; the company gave it for free! Moreover, it wasn't too expensive.

After all, in charge of the operation was one of Brazil's largest construction firms, one of the largest in world, not some anonymous contractor.

"All of a sudden they started saying nonsense such as, 'The train is too narrow, we want it wider.'

"There was another thing. There was a Vale dinner which I attended, in which Lula, who just finished his presidency, asked the Guinean president how he intended to get finance for his country.

"What did Alpha Condé answer? He said, 'I'll go to my friends – Muammar Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez – they'll help.' Do you understand what this is about? You must understand: In countries like Guinea, the president is everything. It's Alpha Condé."

'It's utter garbage'

The bomb exploded for BSGR on October 30, 2012 in the form of an official letter from a committee that examines contracts and concessions in the resources area in Guinea.

The committee was established by the new regime with the express purpose of investigating all the mining contracts signed between the state and private businesses.

Under the title "Accusations," the committee listed a long series of harsh allegations of corrupt conduct by BSGR.

Among others, the company was accused it had given precious gifts – including a miniature model of a diamond studded car – to Guinea's former mining minister, and paid a sum of $2.5 million in cash to a woman named Mamadie Touré, who was romantically involved with President Condé.

The allegations painted a serious picture: BSGR's concessions to prospect for iron in Simandou and in other regions were allegedly obtained by corrupt means.

"This letter is a joke," Steinmetz raged. "All the committee members are the president's puppets. It's a ridiculous and deceitful report. All this nonsense that we gave away watches, cars."

But you really did give a diamond-studded car.

"It's true, the company gave a small model of a diamond-studded car in a formal ceremony, in front of a TV camera in the presence of dozens of people. It's a standard corporate gift by BSGR, worth $1,000. In production costs it was $700.

We gave over 50 such gifts worldwide. Come on, isn't this a joke?"

And the watch you gave former President Condé?

"We never gave any watch. It's utter garbage."

The committee noted a meeting that took place between you and former president Condé in a Geneva hospital, where he was hospitalized. They claim you went there to convince him to give you the concession.

"I was never in a hospital in Geneva, never in my life. Even if you kill me, I wouldn't know how to get to a Geneva hospital. It's a joke."

This is where Frederic Cilins comes in, the man who will move the story from Guinea to New York. 

The Americans got involved in January 2013, after they became suspicious that sources within BSGR are involved in bribery in Guinea; apparently they suspected money laundering and questionable money transfers from Africa to the United States.

For the purpose of the investigation, the FBI enlisted Mamadie Touré, the president's lover.

Touré had numerous phone conversations with Frederic Cilins, a French citizen who was BSGR's partner on the Guinea project. In these talks, which Touré recorded for the FBI, Cilins is heard pleading with Touré to destroy documents which allegedly pertain to the bribery affair in Guinea, and promises her millions of dollars in return.

In April 2013, Cilins was arrested by the FBI in a Florida airport, and 10 days later an indictment was filed against him on charges of obstructing justice and incitement to perjury.

In one of the recording, the FBI claims, Cilins specifically names Beny Steinmetz. Following is a transcript, released here for the first time, of one of the phone conversations:

"I went especially to meet him (Steinmetz), and talk to him about all this in a very clear way. I told him last week: 'Touré will never betray you. Touré will never give the documents. He told me, 'That's fine, but I want you to go and see – I want you to destroy these documents.'" The American prosecutor also noted that Steinmetz and Cilins were very close.

Do you know Frederic Cilins?

"I met him three or four times, after the Vale deal was closed."

The prosecutor said you were close.

"Am I close with anyone?

This is completely false data. Simply untrue. Anyway, I shouldn't discuss matters which are currently under investigation. I was not approached by anyone, it's all hearsay and someone is running a campaign."

What's the explanation?

"Let Cilins explain. He's in court. What there is are plenty of news reports, a lot of media and a lot of gossip. I'm not aware that there are any questions related to me or the company."

Cilins claims Mamadie Touré tried to extort BSGR. Is that true?

"I can tell you this: The company was the target of numerous extortion attempts. We never surrendered to these attempts. We buffeted them resolutely."

In a letter sent to you by the Guinea committee it was claimed Mamadie Touré got $2.5 million from you.

But Steinmetz denies the allegation vehemently. "I'm not the issue here," he says. "The issue is that neither BSGR nor I did anything wrong, only good things. 

The company here is the victim, whose assets are the target of robbery. Let me tell you another thing: I've been working in this field for 36 years: The day after I was released from the army, in 1977, I boarded a plane and flew to Belgium. Since then I worked in over 50 countries, and we never had any problems. 

There were successes, there were failures, but we never appeared in court.

"There, even now, after this affair came about, no one came out and said that this happens to them as well with Steinmetz or with BSGR. If someone is a sexual predator, and someone brave enough testifies against him, usually other women come out and complain too. Not with us. There are no skeletons in the closet.

"The company doesn't pay anything to anyone, not one penny to politicians; we simply don't do this kind of things. This is a well-oiled, evil machine which operates against BSGR and me, run by the president and his associates."

'Wait, it's not over'

Steinmetz points two fingers on the Guinea affair. The first is directed at President Alpha Condé, who he calls "corrupt" and "obsessive." The second, more complex and fantastic, is directed toward billionaire George Soros, the American tycoon who made his fortune on the currency exchange. His worth is estimated at $14 billion, which ranks him among the world's richest men.

Soros has several fingers in the Guinea pie. Among others, he gave substantial donations to aid groups in the country. 

These groups, said associates of BSGR, took part in the change of public opinion against the corporation and stand behind the corruption allegations.

According to a Bloomberg report, Soros financed the first investigation against BSGR, which led to the committee's report.

"Soros hates us," says an associate of BSGR. "He thought for some reason that Beny mocked him when he lost money in Russia, even though it's not true. He's Alpha Condé's friend, and apart from that, he doesn't like Israel. He donates to a lot of pro-Palestinian groups."

Soros himself responded to the claims that he has a personal feud with Steinmetz in an interview with the Financial Times: "I have no business interest in the mining industry of Guinea and have no intention of acquiring any. I have not met Mr. Steinmetz nor have I ever spoken with him. I have no personal grudge against him."

Soros is just trying to help the people of Guinea, isn't he?

He makes contributions to organizations aiding the Guineans.

"Great help. If there wouldn't be business investments in Guinea, none of the citizens would benefit. Investors need to get rewarded for their investment, especially in unstable countries.

Even Soros wants to make money when he's investing up against the Pound. To me it's capitalistic hypocrisy, it's nonsense.

The social organizations tried to persuade Alpha Condé to issue a new mining bill; if under this law no one would invest, then what is it good for? How is it helping the people? All the major mining companies have left the country."

So you're going against the social organizations?

"No. I'm sure that some of them are doing a great job, that's not the issue. What I'm saying is that Guinea has a corrupt leader, who has found a target that's easy to fight.

He doesn't think we will fight back; perhaps he is inexperienced with Israelis. It is war, and I'm telling you we will win in."

At this point it seems they are beating you.

"Who's beating us?!"

Soros. The Guinean government. You are now under attack, and your reputation was damaged.

"Let's wait until the end. It's not over yet. They may have damaged mine and BSGR's reputation with their accusation campaign, but it's not over."

Does it make you regret entering Guinea?

"In business you never regret. If I regret, I just sit at home all day and cry over the things I did or did not do. We are businessmen. We are fighters, we are at war and we will win. We will not give these concessions back."

Meanwhile, the project in Guinea is stuck.

"That's right. Nothing will happen there in the next 10 years, and it's sad. BSGR came to Guinea, invested hundreds of millions of dollars. It could have been possible now to export iron ore after a $10 billion investment. The whole region would bloom. One year of production would have doubled or tripled Guinea's GDP.

"What happened there is that a bad president came to power, and for his own personal reasons, he stopped the work. It's all agenda, politics, corruption and tales. 

The committee that was put together there is fraud; it's not like having a Sheshinski or a Tzemach Committee here, when you know their intentions are clean; these committees were not established to just get Tshuva. It's different in Guinea. It's simply African corruption at its worst, and the terrible thing here is that they mask it as carrying about Guinea."

'Some would say I'm cold-hearted'

How much does this concern you? Is it an annoying background buzz or an urgent matter?

"It's not urgent. I have 11,000 things to deal with. It's more of an annoying buzz. Although it is bad publicity. The company works all over the world, and up until today it had the best reputation possible. In a nutshell, it is a disturbing background buzzing. But it does not keep me up at night."

Is there anything that does keep you up at night?

"Of course. Everyone has something like that. I'm a family man, and my family is very important to me. But business does not keep me from sleeping."

You didn't lose any sleep even after leaving the Isramco partnership just a moment before the natural gas in the Tamar gas field was found?

"In retrospect it was a rough business error, but I have a long list of mistakes."

Did your gut feeling mislead you?

"Whoever only has good gut feelings is probably doing very little. I can tell you about a very long list of mistakes I have made, alongside many successes."

You're not the emotional type.

"I don't know how to answer that. It's hard for me to characterize myself. I think I'm balanced. Some people might say I'm cold-hearted.

And hate the media. And avoid interviews.

"That's right. I have no interest in it. It's not because I'm shy or scared, it's just not my style. I don't need it. It angers me that a timed, planned and paid smearing campaign is run against me in the press. We will fight it and we have already won the lawsuit we filed in London."

Isn't it important for business, to keep in touch with the media?

"Not for my business. I was almost never interviewed. The media does not set anything, and the truth is that I don't really care what everyone thinks."

The international media, by the way, has yet to determine whether you or Idan Ofer win the title of the richest Israeli in the world.

"That's nonsense."

With all honesty, how much is money important to you?

"I care about my family and I care about the interest, the challenge and the doing. Money is secondary, but of course I have a great privilege to say that."

'There are enough anti-Semitic businessmen'

"I would want you to know everything, from A to Z. The whole case is slander. It's all nonsense, but unfortunately there's a legal procedure and I can't respond to everything" is what the Israeli businessman Michael Noy claims from France, after his name has also been mentioned in this affair.

Noy and Frederic Cilins were business partners in 2006-2008 in BSGR Guinea, and according to the FBI, Noy was involved in an attempt to destroy Mamadie Touré's documents. In a recording that is first revealed here, Noy is heard speaking with Cilins.

Noy: "Did she agree to give you everything?" (The FBI claims he is referring to the documents)

Cilins: "Yes. It's done."

Noy: Really?

Cilins: "Yes. I now have everything that was on one side and will have the rest Saturday night."

Noy: "That's good. But I believe… that Touré should leave."

In another recording, Cilins is heard reporting to Noy that Touré has signed a statement (which was false according to the FBI) in which she had no contact with BSGR. In that same conversation, Cilins reports to Noy that Touré also told him that the US authorities are interested in a compromise.

Noy sounds interested in what Touré said to the authorities and how the meeting ended. Cilins responds to his questions and afterwards is heard saying: "We shouldn't talk so much on the phone."

"I cannot refer to the content of the recordings because it is under investigation," Noy explains, "but many of the quotes in the transcripts are not in the recordings. There's talk that's half French and half African.

"It is also unclear from the recordings which documents they're talking about and why they started recording only in March, and what happened in the entire year that had passed from when we spoke with her and her representatives and found out they were spreading fake paperwork?"

Are you claiming that Touré is the one who tried to extort you?

"There were several instances in the past year in which she or other representatives approached with the papers to BSGR and requested that they pay fees. Even though we have no relation with BSGR since 2008, they turned to us to help them get out of this mess.

"At least 10 people claim they brought on the deal and deserve to get money but that's how it is when you get to Africa.

They tell you that there are 10 people waiting for you downstairs and you don't understand because you didn't make appointment with anyone and all these people come and say they want to be your partners. One sells you a forest; the other sells you a mine that doesn't belong to him.

That's how it works and it's not because they're bad or deceitful. They're innocent and that's how it works."

Noy, 62, turned to the global commodity market at the age of 36. He exported luxury goods, including perfumes, from France to Russia. After that he tried selling medicine to Russia and China. In the mid '90s he met Cilins, and the two formed a company called CW FRANCE. According to him, the company mainly dealt with selling medicine to Africa.

"We even sold medicine to the Defense Ministry," Noy claims. "We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to the State."

How did you get to work in Guinea?

"We sold drugs all over Africa, not just Guinea. Guinea is a pretty small market of ours. We worked in Uganda, Kenya and Congo."

And how did you reach a deal with BSGR?

"It was entirely a coincidence since we knew their general manager at the time, Roy Oron, from a previous job in South Africa. Oron asked us whether we work in Guinea and was mainly interested in the area of Simandou."

So you were actually the ones to make the connection with Guinea?

"Yes, you could say that."

What about the allegation that they gave bribes for concessions?

"BSGR did not pay a dime. At first they didn't want this business. I pushed them to take it and they did not pay one dime for this contract. They took on a great risk. They did not receive inheritances or gifts. They worked in places no normal person would go to."

But the recordings have Cilins talking about Steinmetz and his awareness of the document shredding.

"There's just bashing Beny without knowing. I know how they got the concessions. I know that where they invested $200 million where you wouldn't even invest $10. When he said I should invest I told him to do it on his own, I won't put $5 in that place. It's madness. It's all nonsense."

The FBI claims that in a strange coincidence, you embarked on a cruise from the US two days after Cilins' arrest?

"I, Cilins and Avi Lev Ran (another business partner of the two in BSGR Guinea) had to leave two days after the arrest. I was supposed to go on a cruise to Europe that had been planned three and a half weeks ahead of time.

Lev Ran had planned on going on a plane that was booked three weeks in advance, and I intentionally did not want to change anything so that no one would think we were running away. We left as planned."

What do you have to say to those writing about this story?

"Do not destroy the Israeli reputation. There are enough anti-Semitic businessmen and anti-Israelis who are trying to ruin and make problems for Israeli companies. In this story, 99.9% of what you hear is nonsense."

Michael Jackson spent $35 million to cover up molestations of 24 boys

Michael Jackson paid $35 million in hush money to at least two dozen young boys he sexually abused over 15 years, it has been alleged. 

Sunday People has published explosive ‘secret FBI files’ suggesting the King of Pop groomed and molested children from at least 1989, despite his insistence he was just spending time with them.

The damning files claim the deceased popstar was a 'pedophile' who watched porn while assaulting a boy, molested a famous child star, fondled a child’s genitals in his private cinema and groped another child whose mother wasn’t ‘bothered’ by it.

Jackson family lawyers have to date insisted the star has only paid off the family of Jordan Chandler, 13, who he allegedly abused in 1993.

However a sleuth hired by Anthony Pellicano – a celebrity private eye Jackson allegedly hired to make the pedophilia claims go away – has claimed Jackson was a ‘serial child predator’ who paid out scores of children he allegedly abused at his Neverland Ranch.

Sunday People says it has evidence to back the investigators claims.

When Anthony Pellicano was investigated in 2002 for bugging Hollywood stars, the FBI seized his files, including many about Jackson.

These included case files CADCE MJ-02463 and CR 01046 which Sunday People claims it has access to.
The files were allegedly not passed on to prosecutors in Jackson’s controversial 2005 molestation trial.

The shocking revelations come after Jacko’s daughter, 15-year-old Paris, recently tried to kill herself by slashing her wrists.

In further scandal, his family is also trying to sue gig promoter AEG Live who they claim hired Dr Conrad Murray who prescribed Jackson his last fatal drug dose.

AEG Live denies hiring Murray, who is currently serving a four-year jail term for involuntary manslaughter.
The investigator, who spoke to Sunday People on the condition of anonymity, said he decided to finally come forward after Jackson’s former child friend Wade Robson revealed he was abused by Jackson.

Australian-born Robson, a dancer and choreographer, recently launched a major lawsuit against the Jackson estate, saying he was regularly molested at Neverland in the 1990s.

Sunday People claims it has seen files confirming Robson’s claims.

While Pellicano is now in jail for racketeering and wire-tapping, his investigator told Sunday People he was hired to help dig the dirt on Jackson and make potential problems disappear.

He claims Jackson was obsessed with child porn and preyed on the sons of friends.

The investigator said he kept copies of FBI documents naming 17 boys - including five child actors and two dancers – Jacko targeted for abuse.

These included a European boy and the sons of a screenwriter.

The sleuth said at least three boys were paid to stay silent, with the family of a famous film actor given about $596,300 not to talk to the media.

He said a Neverland maid was allegedly paid $2 million after accusing her boss of molesting her son, while another woman who knew her son was being assaulted ‘turned a blind eye to it because if it didn’t bother him, it didn’t bother her’.

The files on the alleged victims were reportedly compiled when lawyers drew up a list of ‘potential threats’ to Jackson’s image in the early 1990s, when he was on a world tour.

But after the father of Jordan Chandler publicly claimed his son had been abused, other similar accusations began flooding the media.

Chandler was paid a hefty sum to stay out of the limelight.

‘His [Jackson’s] actress friend Elizabeth Taylor encouraged him to hire Pellicano ­because she had used him to stop dirt on her drug problems being released in the media,’ the investigator, who spent two years on the case, alleged.

'Pellicano had links to key figures in the US media and made them dance to his tune.

'With the help of people like Pellicano, the world and his fans never heard what took place at Neverland over 15 years.’

While Jackson was found not guilty of abusing a 13-year-old boy in 2005, the private eye insists the boxes of evidence he helped to collect showed ‘Jackson was a serial child predator’.

The investigator said he didn’t come forward to upset Jackson’s children, but to finally make public that authorities have shocking information on the dead star that has never been released.

However long-time Jackson lawyer and friend Brian Oxman said he thought only Chandler had been paid off, but admitted the ‘gift list on Michael’s income tax returns was astounding’.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef hospitalized for second time in two weeks

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef checked in to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem early Sunday afternoon, marking his second hospital stay in as many weeks. 

The Shas party’s spiritual leader had spent three days at Hadassah beginning last Sunday, after he complained of back pain following his arrival there for an examination.

It is likely that the venerable rabbi will be scheduled for back surgery in an effort to relieve his condition, Maariv reported.

Yosef, 92, was lightly injured after he fainted and fell in his home earlier this month and has since then reportedly experienced pain in his back and leg. In January he was hospitalized for several days after suffering a minor stroke.

Last weekend, Yosef was suffering from increased pain in his leg and was unable to give his weekly Shabbat sermon.

The Baghdad-born, outspoken Yosef served as the Sephardi chief rabbi from 1973 to 1983. He is a noted authority on Jewish law and the spiritual leader of the Shas political party.

On Sunday, in a sign of the severity of his condition, his family publicly asked that prayers be said for Yosef’s healing and released his Hebrew name: Ovadia Yosef ben Georgia (עובדיה יוסף בן ג’ורג’יה).

Tel Aviv - Lawyer: Yaakov Felician raped me

"I kept saying 'stop it, stop it.' I begged him to stop but he wouldn't, I was terrified for my life." Dorit (alias), a criminal defense lawyer, who claims that Yaakov Felician – the brother of Hagai Felician, the main suspect in the Barnoar shooting whose remand was extended until Thursday – raped her two weeks ago speaks to Ynet for an exclusive interview.

"He used force, I have bruises all over my body. No sexual contact was consensual, he just brutally raped me," she said.
During a hearing held in a bid to extend Yaakov Felician's remand, it was revealed that the incident allegedly took place when Dorit arrived at Felician's work place, where he is currently under house arrest, in an attempt to secure the job of representing him in the Barnoar case.

Felician's lawyers claim that it was she who initiated the meetings and that the decision to press charges came about only after she lost the case to another lawyer.

In an interview to Ynet, Dorit attempts to dispel any such argument, claiming their relations were strictly professional and that Felician had tricked her by inviting her to his place under the guise of working on the case.

I was shaking all over

"I went to meet him while he was under house arrest, this is neither the first nor last time a defense lawyer visits a client or potential client who is under house arrest."

Two such meetings took place, and according to her, after the second time, Felician called her and said "lets do business." But when she arrived he overtook her.

Afterwards, Felician let her go. "I entered my car shaking, understanding I had just survived a rape. I just fell apart and began screaming and crying. I was shaking all over."

According to her, it was clear to her that she needed medical attention, however, at the time, she says she was too frightened to lodge a police complaint. "The fear was paralyzing."

En route to the hospital, immediately after the horrific incident, she recalls deciding not to file a complaint: "I knew that if someone in my family or one of my friends would know they would file a complaint in my name. They can't understand the fear. So I didn't call anyone."

After arriving at the hospital she informed the medical staff of her situation. They in turn alerted the police and immediately administered a rape kit, the results of which she hopes will shoot down Felician's lawyers' attempt to disqualify her claims.

Afterwards, the police officer suggested she launch an initial, anonymous complaint and after meeting a social worker – which Dorit described as amazing – she agreed.

"I was still very frightened, they are a criminal family," she said, adding the police officer agreed with her that the situation was indeed dangerous.

In Felicians's defense, his lawyers claim that three hours after the alleged rape Dorit supposedly sent their client a text message, at the time she claims she was undergoing a rape kit, thus supposedly disproving her claim.

"It is a shame the media eats up such dribble," Dorit said, further pointing a blaming finger at the legal system which she claims leaked the story and her details.

'If a male lawyer gets violently beaten then the system stands behind him, but a female criminal defense lawyer gets raped then she has to suffer a lynch."

During a hearing regarding the extension of remand held Sunday for Felician, the police said a polygraph test revealed he was speaking the truth.

During the hearing, Felician said: "They're playing with my life. The police should put the woman (Dorit) through a polygraph."

Saturday, June 29, 2013

כיצד וממי משיגים הרב אקשטיין והקרן לידידות תרומות

American Jewish student killed in Egypt

The US State Department has identified the American student killed in Egyptian riots as Andrew Pochter, 21, of Chevy Chase, Maryland. He was stabbed by a protester Friday, according to reports. Another man, an Egyptian, was also killed.

He was in Alexandria to teach English and improve his Arabic, according to his family.

"He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding," Pochter's family said in the statement. “Andrew was a wonderful young man looking for new experiences in the world and finding ways to share his talents while he learned. Andrew cared deeply about his family and his friends."

Pochter had been working in Egypt as an intern at American educational non-profit AMIDEAST, according to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

The State Department said Saturday it did not have information on the circumstances surrounding Pochter's death, but the family said: "As we understand it, he was witnessing the protest as a bystander and was stabbed by a protester."

At Kenyon College, Pochter had served as a leader of the campus Hillel Jewish organization, according to student newspaper The Kenyon Collegian.

His family said he had planned to study in Jordan in the spring. Pochter's roommate in Alexandria told ABC News Pochter had been in the city since “at least the beginning of June.”

According to reports in Egyptian news sources, Pochter had been taking pictures of riots when he was stabbed. The initial reports said he was a journalist.

U.S. spied on EU diplomats in Washington, New York and Brussels

The U.S. National Security Agency allegedly conducted spying on European Union diplomats, according to classified documents taken by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported by German news magazine Spiegel on Saturday.

The NSA bugged EU offices in Washington and at the United Nations in New York and infiltrated internal computer networks, allowing the U.S. spy agency to listen to conversations and read e-mails and other documents, according to a classified document from September 2010.

The NSA also allegedly conducted a wiretapping operation of the EU in Brussels, Spiegel reported.

It pointed to a series of failed phone calls over more than five years that allegedly stemmed from a telemaintenance site in the Justus Lipsius building, which is home to the EU Council of Ministers. The calls were traced to the NATO headquarters in the suburb of Evere, where NSA experts were working.

The White House and a EU spokeswoman both declined to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden asked Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa not to grant asylum to Snowden, Correa said Saturday.

Biden said in a telephone conversation that Snowden was a fugitive from justice and did not have a valid passport.

Snowden has sought asylum in Ecuador, but has remained in a Moscow airport for days after fleeing the United States via Hong Kong. He is accused of leaking information about a vast U.S. spying program that examined telephone and internet records.

Ecuadorian and Russian officials were reportedly in talks over Snowden's fate, Russian broadcaster Rossiya 24 reported.

Correa said he told Biden that Snowden's request could only be processed once he was on Ecuadorian soil. Correa also noted that the U.S. had not turned over to Ecuador brothers William and Roberto Isaias, who are wanted for banking crimes and also did not possess passports from their country.

The White House confirmed that Biden spoke with Correa, but did not provide a readout, except to say the men discussed Snowden's case.

The situation has strained relations between the U.S. and Ecuador, with Ecuador claiming Thursday it no longer wanted trade privileges granted by Washington.

$600 million worth of diamonds left open in Swiss airlines cargo container at JFK Airport

Swiss security has more holes than its cheese.

A container holding $600 million worth of loose diamonds was left sitting with a gaping hole on the bottom at the same JFK warehouse where thieves swiped $1.2 million in cash last week, The Post has learned.

In both instances, the crates arrived on Swiss airlines flights from Zurich.

“Someone could have put their arm inside the cargo container and taken what was inside,” a source said.

A Port Authority cop spotted the damaged cargo container Thursday at around 1:35 p.m., an hour after the flight landed, sources said.

Although it was still sealed, the container “had a gap of several inches on the bottom and parcels were visible inside.”

The contents included up to $600 million worth of diamonds that were destined for jewelers in New York City and elsewhere, sources said.

“It was extremely easy for anyone to put in their arm there and take something out of there,” the source added.

Police supervisors and representatives for SwissPort, the cargo shipper, moved the container to a “secure unpacking location” where officials compared the inventory inside with a shipping manifest.

Nothing was found to have been stolen or lost.

Unlike last Saturday’s robbery, where thieves used a forklift to puncture the crate in order to remove stacks of cash, the cargo containing the diamonds was “probably compromised by age and use,” said a source.

The cash robbery went unnoticed for two days, when the crates were opened at an East Rutherford, NJ, Federal Reserve center. The thieves left behind about $92 million.

Sources said it was being investigated as an inside job, and the FBI planned to give polygraph tests to airport workers who had access to Building 22.

SwissPort International Ltd., which is based in Zurich, is the formal name of the firm that owned the cargo container containing the diamonds.

The company ships 3.5 million tons of cargo yearly on behalf of some 650 client-companies and is active at 180 airports in 37 countries, according to the company’s Web site.

A spokesman for the firm could not be reached, and a spokesman for the Port Authority declined to comment.

American student, 21, stabbed to death in Egypt

The family of a 21-year-old college student killed in Egypt during violent protests says their son cared passionately about the Middle East and was in the country to teach English to children and to improve his own Arabic.

Andrew Pochter, of Chevy Chase, Maryland,was stabbed in the chest by a protester while photographing battles between supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria on Friday.

Pochter was working in Egypt as an intern for AMIDEAST, an American non-profit education organization, teaching English to seven and eight-year-olds.

'He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East. He had studied in the region, loved the culture, and planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding,' his family's the statement said.

Meryn Chimes, a New York University student who said she was a friend of Pochter, recalled how he traveled to Morocco between high school and college and sent her excited letters about how much he loved it there.

'When he came back, he just had this passion for the Middle East,' she said.

She said they last spoke a few days ago.

'He really wanted to broaden people's perspective, especially in America,' she said. 

'He wanted people to see places the way he saw them.'

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning advising Americans to defer nonessential travel to Egypt because of the continuing violence there.

‘We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,’ a department spokeswoman said, adding that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs were providing ‘appropriate consular assistance.’

A message posted on a Facebook page titled ‘R.I.P Andrew Driscoll Pochter,’ stated:

‘He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan.'

According to Pochter’s relatives, the young college student was an innocent bystander who was stabbed by a protester during the unrest.

‘He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding,’ the post said. ‘Andrew was a wonderful young man looking for new experiences in the world and finding ways to share his talents while he learned.’

Described by those who knew him as an idealistic young man, Pochter had served as a student leader of Kanyon colleges' campus Jewish organization, Hillel, according to student newspaper The Kenyon Collegian.

Arrest in violent NJ home invasion; sick attack on mother was captured on nanny cam

NEWARK — Authorities have arrested a man wanted in a New Jersey home invasion that left a mother beaten, an attack that was captured by a nanny camera.The Essex County prosecutor's office says 42-year-old Shawn Custis was arrested Friday evening in Manhattan.

Anthony Ambrose, chief of detectives for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, says the arrest was made by officials from the FBI and the Essex County Prosecutor's office. Ambrose says Custis is being transported to an undisclosed location in New Jersey.

He faces charges of attempted murder, robbery, burglary and child endangerment.

The attack last Friday in Millburn was captured on home video. A man can be seen bursting into the woman's home, punching and kicking her and throwing her down stairs while her 3-year-old daughter cowered on the couch.

CEO and mother of two claims she was 'drugged and raped' at top NYC hotel

A female CEO claims she was raped in her room at an exclusive New York hotel by a man she had met just hours earlier in one of the hotel’s bars.

The incident allegedly occurred at the Dream Downtown Hotel in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Thursday, according to a report published in the New York Post.

The woman, who wishes to remain unnamed, is a 36-year-old mother of two from Florida.

Her attacker is described as a 5ft 5in, 150-pound light-skinned man in his 30s with brown eyes and shaggy brown hair and a crooked nose.

The CEO says he approached her in a hotel bar and started to flirt, she is adamant that she made it clear she wasn’t interested in his advances.

‘I had plugged my phone in across the room. So I kept walking back and forth to it. He never bought me a drink, but he had to have put something in my drink at that time,’ she told the Post.

The last thing the woman remembers before blacking out was walking to the elevator on her way to the hotel’s rooftop lounge P-HD.

The next thing she was aware off was waking up in her room with the top of her dress pulled down and her cellphone gone.

The victim said she didn’t realize she had been raped until she got to Roosevelt Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Law-enforcement sources said they have ‘good’ surveillance footage which shows the attacker leaving the woman’s room with her cellphone and one of her business cards.

The woman said she was staying at the hotel because she was scheduled to have a meeting with a retired sports star, but that the meeting got canceled.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Elderly Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust 'swindled out of her $16 million apartment buildings' by glamorous realtor granddaughter

An elderly woman who survived the Nazis, a plane crash and recently, a car accident, has told a Manhattan court that her 23-year-old real-estate broker granddaughter sold her home out from under her as she was recuperating, leaving her destitute and facing eviction.

Sarah Weinberg, 73, owned two small apartment buildings in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan for decades - but one was sold recently, and the other has been signed over to her granddaughter, Danielle Kaminsky.

Weinberg is claiming that Kaminsky conspired with her father David Kaminsky, Weinberg's former son-in-law, to scam the grandmother out of the buildings, and has filed a $16 million suit against the two.

The building that was sold at 371 West 46th Street is where Weinberg was living with her daughter, Iris Kaminsky, and Danielle Kaminsky.

According to the New York Post, Weinberg and her late husband purchased the four-storey building 44 years ago for $59,000. Weinberg was refinancing the building when her granddaughter convinced her to sell it.

The New York Daily News reports that Danielle Kaminsky, a blond real-estate broker, encouraged Weinberg to sell the building when she was recovering from being hit by a car in 2012.

Papers filed in court say Danielle Kaminsky, whose 'spending habits far exceed anything she makes,' also convinced her grandmother to sign the building over into a trust under Danielle's control in spring.

According to the suit filed by Weinberg, Danielle 'desperately sought to sell the 371 building for her own personal gain [and] preyed on [Weinberg's] post-traumatic fears and anxieties in order to confuse, isolate and terrorize her elderly and trusting grandmother.'

The building was sold in May at the 'bargain-basement' price of $3.2 million - to a friend of David Kaminsky's. And David Kaminsky himself pocketed a $200,000 'consultancy fee' in the transaction.
The suit claims that the building had been conservatively valued at $5.3 million.

Danielle Kaminsky convinced Weinberg to transfer the deed to the second building at 402 West 46th Street to a trust under her control.

Meanwhile, Sarah Weinberg was told in no uncertain terms by her granddaughter to move out of her home.
'She told me, "Pack." That’s it. "Pack,"' Weinberg told the New York Daily News.

'There is something wrong with her. But I don’t want to say anything bad about her,' she said.

According to Weinberg's suit, Weinberg tried to undo the transfer, but was blocked by her granddaughter.
The New York Daily News reports that Danielle Kaminsky has moved into the second building's penthouse, along with her boyfriend and her grandmother's two pet Akitas, where she's been living rent-free ever since.

On Thursday, Danielle Kaminsky's lawyers agreed to postpone eviction proceedings and hold the money from the sale of the first building in escrow until the next court hearing on July 23.

Weinberg's lawyer told the New York Daily News that she has survived far worse trials than her granddaughter's 'deceit', including fleeing with her family as a baby to escape the Nazis, escaping political persecution in Argentina at 15, and enduring the loss of her parents in a plane crash that also left her with severe burns.

Danielle Kaminsky's profile on the Douglas Elliman Real Estate website says she's a 'rental specialist' who loves jazz and ballet and spent her 'formative years watching her family invest in Manhattan real estate, so she’s literally grown up in the business.'

Kaminsky told the New York Daily News that her grandmother wasn't telling the truth.

'I don’t know why she’s lying but she’s lying,' she said as she wiped away tears.

The New York Post reports that Kaminsky says the real villain is her mother, Iris, who 'forced Weinberg to refinance the building and then allegedly pocketed the cash'.

Eduardo Elsztain, Jewish-Argentinian savior of Israeli tycoon Nochi Dankner

Avraham (not his real name) was an ordinary Israeli citizen who had come on a trip to Argentina, but the weekend he spent in the Patagonian city of Bariloche this spring is one he will never forget. During the visit, he heard from Jews residing in the city that an Argentine Jewish billionaire, who owns several properties in the area, needed coreligionists to join him on the weekend, to complete the requisite minyan (quorum of 10) for a Jewish prayer service. Avraham expressed willingness and was invited to spend an entire weekend at the swankiest hotel in the region, the Llao Llao, which stands on a hilltop at the edge of town and overlooks Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Together with a group of Jews from Israel and elsewhere, his stay at the pricey hostelry was covered by his host, a part-owner of the Llao Llao. And despite his wealth, the host chased down the waiters and waitresses to ensure that each of his guests was accorded the proper hospitality.

It is not certain all the incidental guests knew this, but they spent those 24 hours in the company of a local tycoon who controls the largest real estate company in Argentina and an agricultural corporation with dozens of grain and cattle farms. He also has holdings in an Australian mining company that mines metals in South America; office buildings in New York; the major mortgage bank in Argentina; a local credit card company − and also a marginal piece of a holding group that was formerly the Israeli economy’s largest.

Eduardo Elsztain’s guests ate dinner with him that Friday night, and on Shabbat were invited to share both breakfast and lunch with him, and even a drink between meals. Everyone who sat with Elsztain described a modest man, warmhearted, approachable and unassuming, dressed in jeans and a simple shirt. The same went for his wife, likewise an Argentine Jew.

Elsztain has other holdings besides the Llao Llao Hotel in the southern resort beloved of Israelis. He also owns property on a small resort island called Isla Victoria, which is located in the middle of Lake Nahuel Huapi. On occasions when Elsztain stays on the island for Shabbat, the minyan-completers are likely to find themselves flying there by helicopter or sailing there on a yacht − before Shabbat, of course − all for the sake of heaven.

Elsztain, who entered the lives of investors in the Israeli capital market nine months ago, has proved in recent months to be one of its greatest mysteries. In the past few weeks he became the only one willing to invest in Ganden – the private firm through which Nochi Dankner controls IDB Holdings Corporation. Everyone else, it seems, is demanding that Dankner pay the price for his irresponsible financial conduct, which has seen IDB and its pyramid of companies engulfed in debt.

The IDB group owns controlling shares in some of Israel’s best-known companies, including Cellcom and Super-Sol, and Ganden Holdings is the private company through which Dankner effectively controls his IDB empire. Following the accumulation of massive debt, numerous bondholders have been agitating for change and the group has received warnings about its cash-flow situation. However, Dankner received a lifeline last September when he returned from Argentina with Elsztain’s cash injection of $25 million into Ganden, with the promise of further funds to come − to the widespread disbelief of the financial sector in Israel.

In recent months rumors circulated that Elsztain was getting cold feet after the initial investment. But then, earlier this month, the Argentine billionaire convened a surprise press conference in Israel, offering his public backing to the beleaguered Dankner. He also backed Dankner after bondholders went to court, petitioning for control of the IDB group in a debt-for-equity swap. The case is ongoing.

Who, then, is Eduardo Elsztain? How much money does he have? How much is he willing and able to invest? Is the extra money − a reported $75 million − he intends to pour into the IDB group’s Ganden Holding even his? And how can it be that the only investor in the world who is prepared to come to Dankner’s aid is a Jew from the other side of the world who is not known to the local business community?

In the Orthodox community in Argentina, they like to recount a tall tale about how Elsztain acquired Isla Victoria. Elsztain, the story goes, arrived for a meeting on the island with the landowner, and debated whether or not to buy the place. When he went outdoors to tour the island, he came across a spring, and alongside it were deer that had come from afar just to drink. Elsztain looked at them and said to himself that if the buck drank from the spring, it was a sign he should buy the property.

Countering this legend is the testimony of many of his acquaintances, who describe a sharp, focused and quick-witted businessman who does not make decisions on the basis of rabbis’ orders. It is in this space between the business pole and the spiritual pole that we must look for the explanation to his investment in Ganden Holdings.

Anyone who thought Dankner had managed to enlist a naive Jew, one who lacks a thorough understanding of the convoluted situation that the IDB group is in, may be surprised by the scale of the business empire that Elsztain built with his own two hands over the past 20 years. However, it is not certain that the range of companies he is involved in attests to his true wealth and liquidity.

Like Dankner, Elsztain controls some of the companies despite not holding a large number of shares in them. This may be why Elsztain does not necessarily plan to invest further in IDB, but rather is trying to recruit other investors who will join forces with him to rescue the Israeli tycoon from collapse.

Real estate boom

Well beyond his holdings in the Bariloche region, IRSA − the real estate company headed by Elzstain − has been responsible for some of the most prominent developments of the past decade in Buenos Aires. Young Israeli backpackers visiting Argentina may not be aware of this but Elsztain is also the man behind Iaacob House Hostel, which offers Israeli travelers lodgings in the capital at a fair price − as long as they comply with the policy of segregated rooms for men and women. Some say he occasionally comes to spend Shabbat there.

IRSA’s major enterprises have relied on Elsztain’s ability to spot the potential in dilapidated properties and renovate them. In the Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires − an entire neighborhood that was built on the ruins of the city’s old docks − IRSA built commercial and office space. In the center of the city, Elsztain saw the potential in the ravaged Abasto de Buenos Aires building, a wholesale market that stood empty and mice-infested. Retaining its historic facade, he built the Abasto Shopping Center over the foundations. Another example is Isla Demarchi, where Elsztain was one of the parties behind the construction of a commercial and office complex on an artificial island that extended the area of Buenos Aires into the Plata River.

Elsztain did a good job of exploiting the real estate boom in Argentina in the second half of the last decade to grow with IRSA. With its share price having leapt 155 percent over the past five years, IRSA − which is traded on the New York and Buenos Aires stock exchanges − is now worth more than half a billion dollars. In the 12 months to July 2012, the company netted $61 million, a sum it distributed in full as dividends in the course of 2012.

The company has holdings in two office buildings in New York; 8 percent of an American REIT (real estate investment trust) that invests in hotels; and 10 percent of another Argentine real estate firm, TGLT. IRSA also holds 12 percent of a local credit card company by the name of Tarshop.

Elsztain holds 65 percent of IRSA through the company Cresud, which he controls. It is not known whether, or to what extent, he leveraged (i.e., borrowed funds at a lower rate of interest than he expected to make) − for the purpose of acquiring control in Cresud, in which he has a 38 percent stake. Cresud is currently trading on NASDAQ at a value of $370 million. Except for its holdings in IRSA, it is an agriculture business of only moderate profitability.

Cresud has land reserves totaling 23 million square meters. It focuses on acquiring grain and cattle farms, and on milk production. A decade ago it was designated Argentina’s biggest meat and grain manufacturer, but the recession years cost it some of the farms in its possession. Additionally, Cresud holds 36 percent of BrasilAgro, which operates in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. The group controls another real estate company that is traded on the stock exchange, APSA, which is trading at a value of $50 million in Buenos Aires.

Elsztain seasons these holdings with shares in financial institutions. Cresud holds 30 percent of the shares in Argentina’s biggest mortgage bank, Hipotecario, which trades on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange at a value of 1.9 billion pesos. Finally, Elsztain is chairman and a shareholder in the Australian mining company Austral Gold.

Despite the scope of Elsztain’s investments, it is not certain he has the liquidity to toss $100 million Dankner’s way without hesitation. However, an examination of his companies’ commitments versus equity capital and cash flow shows that Elsztain did not commit the sin of excessive leveraging that landed his current partner from Israel into the mess in which he finds himself, and his companies are financially stable.

Elsztain made the initial investment in Ganden Holdings through his public companies. IRSA’s annual reports make no mention of Ganden or of any investment in Israel, but they do mention that, in September-October 2012, the company invested $25 million in the Dolphin Investment Fund − through which the investment in Ganden was handled.

It is worth noting another interesting detail that appears in Cresud’s reports, which demonstrates that Elsztain knows how to charge management fees from the companies he controls: Among the risk factors Cresud lists, it mentions that the company pays 10 percent of its profit − based on a special consultancy agreement − to the Dolphin Fund, in which Elsztain has an 85 percent stake.

Considering that both Cresud and IRSA are public companies, Elsztain is taking the money that Argentine and American workers have invested in his companies for their future retirement for his own speculative investment, the object of which is to salvage Dankner’s control of the IDB group. The investing public in Argentina may be less active than the one in Israel, but still, Elsztain might well be constrained in his ability to continue streaming unlimited funds to IDB.

The stories that depict Elsztain as a modest and approachable man who steers clear of the spotlight make one wonder about the differences between his personality and Dankner’s. From a business standpoint, though, they bear a resemblance: Elsztain is reminiscent of Dankner not only in that he involved a public company in a speculative investment. Like Dankner, in recent years he has had to contend with considerable public criticism. In the case of the Isla Demarchi development in Buenos Aires, the public was angered by the fact that construction of the luxury neighborhood led to the closure of factories in the zone and the loss of factory workers’ livelihoods.

His good relations with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner also attract attention. Kirchner infuriates some of her countrymen because of the wealth that she and her associates have amassed in the time she has been in power (since 2007). The Kirchner administration recently initiated reform in the construction industry, with the aim of encouraging construction of residential apartments. Among other things, the reform includes mortgage-financing breaks for citizens. The fact that this move will benefit the bank Elsztain controls has not escaped the media’s notice.

Elsztain has also come under fire lately from the opposition in Argentina, in connection with the mining company he chairs, Austral Gold, because of the tax breaks the company enjoys.

As if this were not enough, in recent years Elsztain has had to contend with protest rallies outside his offices in Buenos Aires, because of his Zionist activism. These demonstrations recently became more relevant than ever, since Elsztain’s investment in Ganden could spur allegations that it means transferring funds from Argentina to Israel.

Soros’ golden boy

Elsztain’s Zionism has accompanied him from a young age. In the late 1970s, before he took a turn to the Orthodox, he visited Israel on a wild, teen trip. Today he is a major donor to the Taglit-Birthright project, which brings young Anglo Jews on organized tours to Israel, and in the past served as treasurer of the World Jewish Congress. His sister lives in Israel (Elsztain also has two brothers who serve in executive positions within the group, as does a cousin). According to acquaintances, Elsztain has a long-standing dream of taking a year off from his business and coming to Israel to study Torah.

“Perhaps he thought he could come, be nice and save IDB’s business, and the entire people would thank him. He was wide of the mark. Dankner is not a popular figure in Israel these days. He might have connected with more popular characters,” says someone who knows Elsztain.

Even more than Zionism, it seems that the religious-spiritual element is what drove Elsztain to make his investment. Elsztain, who wears a skullcap, lives next door to a synagogue that he built for himself and those who wish to pray with him. At the Abasto mall he built in Buenos Aires, he made sure a mezuzah was affixed to the entrance, and that the place included kosher restaurants and a kashrut inspector. “He is a businessman who cares about each and every Jew − everywhere in the world, not only in Israel. A real tzaddik. The people of Israel matter to him before any benefits. He has a sense of mission that they are unaccustomed to in Israel,” says an Argentine Jew who knows him.

Elsztain was born into a secular bourgeois family. Both his father and his grandfather were real estate developers. He worked in the family business when he was starting out, before heading to New York in 1990, where he talked his way into a meeting with the legendary investor George Soros − who was persuaded to let the ambitious young man manage $10 million for him. Elsztain managed Soros’ money with great success, and subsequently Soros helped him acquire control of Cresud in 1992-1994, serving as his partner in the company for many years − a partnership that was dissolved long ago.

In his dealings with Soros, a meeting took place that proved no less significant to his business path. Even today, more than two decades after that meeting, they say Elsztain likes to tell the story of how he became religiously observant − thanks to an encounter with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

To those interested, he recounts that when he was in the United States, he was recommended to turn to the rabbi and receive advice and a dollar coin that would bring blessings to his business. Elsztain recalls how he debated whether to waste $7 on a cab to take him to the rabbi’s house, and in return to obtain the single dollar.

Eventually, when he made up his mind and came to the rabbi for advice, the latter gave him $2 instead of the $1 as expected. When Elsztain asked him why, the rabbi replied: “One dollar for your success, and another so you will donate your money to others.” At a later date, the rabbi advised him to sell his holdings on the stock exchange and focus on real estate, a suggestion that turned out to be well timed. The success of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s golden advice is possibly what drives Elsztain today, two decades later, to invest in Ganden.

Elsztain remains connected to Chabad circles, but strongest of all is his warm bond with Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto. Pinto has deep ties to Argentina, where his father-in-law, Shlomo Ben Hamo, is the chief rabbi. (The pair is currently embroiled in a legal dispute: Ben Hamo accuses Pinto of exploiting him for money-laundering purposes.) Pinto has been behind previous investments of Elsztain’s: He reportedly brokered the deal in which Elsztain bought the so-called Lipstick Building in Manhattan from Ilan Ben Dov, as a result of which Elsztain became the partner of another businessman close to Pinto − Jacky Ben Zaken.

Dankner and Elsztain first met years ago, when the former was visiting Argentina, but the basis for the present business connection is courtesy of Dankner’s close ties to Pinto. Not only was Pinto the one who arranged the first meeting between him and Elsztain, but he also continued to serve as a go-between in additional meetings over the past year − some of which were held at Pinto’s home in Ashdod.

A source who has conducted business with Elsztain in the past says that Pinto “makes a very serious impression,” but that Elsztain is “not one to donate money for no reason. Maybe the Pinto story aids in the investment, but Elsztain is not going to get his company invested at sums like that without deep thought beforehand.”

Another friend from the Chabad community says that Elsztain is too smart simply to follow the rabbi’s lead. “There’s no way it works like that where the rabbi tells him, ‘Do this or that,’” he says. “Even if he gives money, he won’t just give and walk away. He’d be a partner and he would have many opinions and advice on how to direct the business.” Still, Pinto continues to press Elsztain to advance further toward Dankner.

The rescuer’s dilemma

When the reasons for the investment in Ganden are sought, it seems that Dankner knew to push all the right buttons: Elsztain’s Zionism and desire to get involved in Israel; the belief in the wisdom of rabbis; and the tendency to look for investments precisely in those places all the other investors flee.

From the moment Elsztain showed an interest in the company − and more important, from the moment he transferred the initial sum − Dankner traveled to Argentina time and again to pressure him to transfer the rest of the money. Senior Bank Leumi officials came to Buenos Aires to gauge whether Elsztain was serious in his intentions of investing with Dankner, and to ascertain from that how they should deal with Dankner regarding his debt to the bank. The events of recent weeks, in which employees of the IDB group demonstrated in support of Dankner and the heads of local authorities held press conferences in his honor, have not gone unnoticed by Elsztain.

As of now, Elsztain is in a catch-22 situation: Unless additional funds are transferred, the odds are that the $25 million he invested in Ganden will go down the drain, so he must decide whether to cut his losses or throw good money after bad.

A transfer of an additional $50 million or $75 million is a substantial sum to take out of IRSA. The company’s working capital totals 212 million pesos, which is approximately $40 million. This is apparently the reason Elsztain is trying to recruit other investors in New York to join him in the investment.

If he succeeds, it is possible he will advance together with them in Ganden’s direction. If not, perhaps he will seek more spiritual answers. Like in the story of the deer on Isla Victoria.