I canâ€™t keep up. Too much happening too fast. Arkady Gaydamak (53) is all over the place. I planned to write this piece on this phenomena called Arkady (Arcadi or Arkadi) Gaydamak (an Oligarch) and as I am writing these words there are 2 new news bits that involve the Gaydamak family. This is like trying to nail Jello to the wall, and as you will see, apparently some law enforcement agencies seem to think the same thing.
Letâ€™s start with the old news. Gaydamak moved into Israel and did some local shopping. He bought Jerusalemâ€™s Beitar Jerusalem, a rather controversial soccer team. He then also bought a basketball team and donated $400,000 to a third team just to keep things fair.
But the shopping spree started earlier with this little acquisition reported in Russia:
â€œThat changed this week when Gaydamak acquired the Moskovskiye Novosti, a leading Russian liberal publication from the time of perestroika. The St. Petersburg Times reported that â€œArkady Gaydamak, a Moscow-born businessman with four passports and a controversial past, confirms that he had bought the weekly newspaper.â€
â€œGaydamak seems still to be close to the Angolan government and he is definitely involved in Angolaâ€™s Sunland Mining, a company in which Alrosa is believed to be the largest shareholder. As is well known, Sunland is one of the official buyers of rough diamonds from Angolan state company Sodiam. Gaydamak once was in partnership with Lev Leviev. Though they publicly talk nicely about each other, there is no doubt that there has been a fall-out between these ex-partners.â€
Forbes had an interesting article about Gaydamak, shedding a little more light about the Angola (alleged Angola) connection and the connection to Lev Leviev, owner of Africa Israel, the largest real estate behemoth in Israel, and someone who had gone on several shopping sprees himself a few years back:
â€œA friend of his (Lev Levievâ€™s), Arcadi Gaydamak, an alleged arms dealer with Israeli and Russian citizenship, was an adviser to Dos Santos. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in the mid 1990s Gaydamak (wanted in France for illegal arms trafficking) negotiated a forgiveness of Angolan debt to Russia, in exchange for arms. In January 2000, a month after Leviev’s Ascorp was awarded the exclusive on Angola’s diamonds, Gaydamak bought 15% of Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments. Within a year Leviev bought back Gaydamak’s stake. A quid pro quo? “He offered to sell me the shares at a good price,” says Leviev. “This was a time before Mr. Gaydamak had legal problems.” While the two are no longer business associates, they remain chums.â€
Rumors have it that Lev and Gaydamak are not palls (or chums) any longer. As a matter of fact today Lev Leviev bought Hapoel Tel Aviv, a soccer team rivaling some say Arkady Gaydamakâ€™s Beitar Jerusalem. Itâ€™s sort of like the old game of Monopoly, only with real people, companies and money. Sort of cute.
What brought Arkadi Gaydamak into the spotlight was his March 2005 arrest and police investigation of over $230 Million in suspected laundered money that was moving around in a Tel Aviv branch of Bank Hapoalim. Three businessmen were involved including Arkady. The nice thing about this was that all 22 employees and a group of 45 customers of branch 535 of Bank Hapoalim seem to be cooperating withâ€¦Gaydamak.
As the police closed in Gaydamak transferred a bulk of the money, investigators suspect that he was tipped off by bank staff. The Police are still trying to figure out what happened there and after posting a $1 million bail requirement (chump change) Arkadi was out.
Ynet reported about the money laundering investigation:
â€œPolice investigators questioned Russian millionaire Arkadi Gaydamak Monday in the framework of a money laundering investigation involving a Tel Aviv branch of Bank Hapoalim.â€
â€œAccording to suspicions, hundreds of millions of dollars were laundered at the branch. The investigation revealed that the money was transferred to the bank from overseas, laundered and then transferred back abroad.
Dozens of businessmen and 22 of the bank’s employees were questioned in the months after the scandal broke on suspicion they were involved in the scheme.â€
There is no ignoring the fact that there is some sort of Angloa connection going on and this is from a 2001 Article in Africa Confidential:
â€œSpeculation about the departure of General JoÃ£o de Matos, Chief of General Staff of the ForÃ§as Armadas Angolanas, suggests he may be Luanda’s first casualty from the ‘Angolagate’ sanctions-busting scandal which threatens the highest reaches of France’s political establishment. De Matos’ tactical acumen is credited with the FAA’s striking military turnaround in 1994. Arrest warrants have been issued in France for two foreign nationals who were granted Angolan citizenship – Pierre Falcone (detained) and Arkadi Gaydamak – and who were the principals in a US$130 million arms deal in 1993. Official Angolan sources told Africa Confidential that De Matos remains in his post ‘but we cannot be certain about the future’.â€
Sky News just reported that Alexandre Gaydamak (31), son of billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak, just bought a stake in Portsmouth, a soccer club in the UK. Arkadi Gaydamak was mentioned and according to Sky News was rumored to have a French arrest warrant against him for an Angolan arms for oil deal.
From the BBC article on the Portsmouth deal:
â€œDespite owning Beitar, Alexandre’s father Arcadi has lived in Moscow since 2002. The Beitar owner is involved in various industrial enterprises in Russia and owns a medium-sized bank and brokerage company.
In 2002 Paris magistrates issued an arrest warrant for him for questioning over an alleged arms-for-oil deal with Angola in the early 1990s. Arcadi Gaydamak insisted his involvement in the deal was as part of a legitimate agreement between the governments of Russia and Angola.
Jean-Christophe Mitterand, the son of former French president Francois Mitterand, was given a 30-month suspended sentence for his involvement in the affair.â€
In the Tel Aviv Harbour entertainment area Gaydamak held a New Year Eve party and invited 1,400 guests to celebrate the beginning of 2006. The event was covered in the news and the 1,200 attendees included known personalities in entertainment, politics, sports (the entire Beitar team of course), business and other celebes. There was lots of good food prepared by 18 chefs and The Temptations dropped in for a performance. Getting an invite was a big deal and although most politicians stayed away (some say by orders from above) the party was a success. I had a previous engagement and could not attend..
The press had a heyday and the next day Arkadi was on Channel 1 for an interview. He was asked about his intentions in Israel and his recent acquisitions (did I mention he was going to launch a new political party?). Mostly he explained that his intentions and motives are purely to advance Israel and make it a better place. He believes the country can be the next Monaco…
When asked about his past and the rumors about the source of his funds he didnâ€™t really answer, come to think about it he basically ignored the question. He was interviewed in English and the interviewer attempted to translate (did a horrible job) but what was interesting was that he understood the translation to Hebrew and kept correcting the anchor when she made a mistake or misrepresented his answers. He definitely had a lot to say and the interviewers had a rough time keeping the show on track. An interesting guy..
I think Arkadi Gaydamak will blend in well in Israeli life and I just want to say that for the right price THIS BLOG IS FOR SALE !!!!!