Hundreds of Israelis exposed in Panama Papers financial scandal

Haaretz reports: Some 600 Israeli companies and 850 Israeli shareholders are listed in the leaked documents of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a leader in creating shell companies that often serve to conceal ownership of assets.

The leaked files, which were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with Haaretz and other media organizations, provide a glimpse of the economy that until now had been hidden from the Israeli public.

There is a number of prominent names among the shareholders. It is important to note that as long as holdings in the companies and their revenues — if any — are reported as required to Israeli tax authorities, owning the company is not against the law.

Mossack Fonseca’s branch in Israel is headed by attorney Amir Maor. Callers to the branch are informed by a voicemail message that they have reached the offices of “The Company for Establishing Companies.”

Reached by telephone, Maor stated that Mossack Fonseca informed its Israeli branch last week that files had been stolen after its computer systems were breached. “Any information you use [from these files] is like using stolen data,” he said, refusing to give further comment.

The leaked files mention Sapir Holdings, a company registered in 2002 in the Virgin Islands. The owner and its only director was top-ranking lawyer Jacob Weinroth. He was indicted for money laundering in late 2009 and acquitted two years later of all charges against him. During the trial, it emerged that the company had received 30 million shekels ($7.95 million) for services rendered from Uzbek-Israeli entrepreneur Michael Cherney and Russian-Israeli businessman Arcady Gaydamak.

The fraudulent real estate deal of 2002 with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was also brought up in the trail. The failed deal, in which expensive lands in Jerusalem were offered to the State of Israel for a 999-year lease, was intended to be carried out by Christian Lands of Israel, a company created by Mossack Fonseca, which Weinroth represented. Company documents, like those requesting power of attorney for Weinroth, are among those found in the leaked files. [Continue reading…]

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