Lieberman Hadada 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The son of Austrian Jewish refugees from World War II, 57-year-old entrepreneur
Martin Schlaff found himself again in the spotlight on Monday after he helped
broker the release of an Israeli photographer held for six months in
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Schlaff, who has business dealings with Libya, was asked to become
involved by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with whom he has close
One of the richest people in Austria, Schlaff’s net worth is
estimated to be over €2 billion.
A prominent philanthropist and supporter
of the arts, Schlaff initially built his fortune during the Cold War, when he
and his brother James took control of the commercial firm Robert Placzek AG and
began actively trading with East Germany.
Since then, he has been
investigated on a number of occasions due to allegations that he cut deals with
Stasi, the East German secret police, and that he traded embargoed goods with
In 1998, Schlaff joined Yasser Arafat in opening the Oasis
casino in Jericho. The casino quickly became a major hit with Israelis, who
could not legally gamble within the Green Line. Despite its initial success, the
Oasis closed its doors in 2000 following widespread violence in the West Bank
with the outbreak of the second intifada.
Schlaff has been the subject of
a number of police investigations in Israel that focused on his relationship
with Lieberman and former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Among the allegations,
police suspect Schlaff operated a number of shell companies to illegally fund
Lieberman’s 2006 election campaign, and that he paid off a debt accrued by
Sharon during his campaign for the Likud primary in 1999.
Schlaff chose not to attend his father Haim’s funeral in Jerusalem, as he was
unable to receive assurances from police that he would not be arrested if he
came to Israel.
Schlaff also made headlines across Europe in 1998, when
he paid out €200 million to his ex-wife – one of the largest divorce settlements
in the history of Europe.