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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guma Aguiar, Jerusalem homes being put up for sale

A collection of Jerusalem properties that boast not just a steep price tag and spectacular view but a little notoriety will soon be put up for sale.

They belong to the estate of Guma Aguiar, the Brazilian multi-millionaire and philanthropist who went missing in June a year ago after heading out to sea in his motorboat off the coast of Florida. The boat was later found without any sign of Aguiar, who left behind a tangle of lawsuits and a family in turmoil.

Among his Jerusalem properties being put on the block are an Old City apartment overlooking the Western Wall and his main Jerusalem residence in the neighborhood of Yemin Moshe. While the properties going on sale are valued in the tens of millions of shekels, they are only asmall portion of the close to 30 that he owned in Israel's capital. The properties are apparently being sold in order to cover the debts of Aguiar and family members, which were revealed after his disappearance.

Under Israeli law, the moment Aguiar was declared a missing person his property was transferred into the hands of the Justice Ministry’s Administrator General, which is now guardian of the properties.

The sales are being overseen by attorneys Meir Heller and Ephraim Abramson, who were appointed a year ago by the Jerusalem District Court as representatives of the Administrator General.

The most intriguing property is Aguiar's apartment on Hatamid Street in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter overlooking the Kotel. Aguiar took pridein this apartment and said he intended to donate it to the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement to serve as a center for learning. In an interview with TheMarker, Aguiar said he would not sell the apartment even if he were offered one billion shekels, but it will fetch less than that. 

Anappraiser hired by the property’s two managers valued the apartment at NIS 15 million. Its 106.5 square meters include a living room, eatingarea, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a balcony that faces the Western Wall.

“There has been a great deal of interest in this property, and we’ve already received many inquiries about it from the realtor offices in Jerusalem,” said Heller. Tours of the apartment will be offered to prospective buyers in the coming days, he said.

Aguiar's personal residence on Yemin Moshe's Hatikva Street, opposite the Old City walls, was originally two separate duplex homes. The house has 430 square meters of floor space spread across three stories. 

Its yard has a jacuzzi and a fish pond. The home's appraised value is NIS 15 million, but it could be redivided and each home sold separately for as much as NIS 8 million each.

The managers of Aguiar's Israeli estate are also selling two additional houses he owned in Yemin Moshe, one on Hatikva Street and the other on Malki Street. Both have generated much interest, primarily by realtors representing foreign buyers, said Heller. Over the next two weeks thosewith serious offers will be invited to make their bids.

Brazilian-born, Aguiar grew up in the United States in an evangelical Christian family. His mother was a Jewish convert to Christianity and hehimself converted to Judaism in his twenties. Through the company Leor Energy, which he co-founded with his uncle, Aguiar acquired the biggest stake in Texas' Deep Bossier, a field with the largest reserves of natural gas found in the United States in recent years. In 2007 they sold it for $2.55 billion.

In Israel, Aguiar was best known for his investments in the Jerusalem sports teams Beitar (soccer) and Hapoel (basketball) as well as hisdonations to many charitable causes. At the same time, he had a reputation for making eccentric claims, including a plan to build the ThirdTemple. In 2010, he was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital after claiming to have traveled to Gaza to free then captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

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