(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Arkadi Gaydamak, the Russian immigrant billionaire who last week announced the establishment of a movement for "social justice," found himself on the hot seat Sunday when police questioned him about a scandal surrounding an allegedly forged letter.
The interrogation concerned a criminal investigation led by Cmdr. Yohanan Danino of the Investigations and Intelligence Division of the Police which was opened two weeks ago as a result of suspicion that someone forged an official document concerning Gaydamak.
In State Attorney Eran Shendar's findings, which he submitted to the police, the letter was found to be generated with the intent of damaging the appearance of the Israeli law enforcement community.
Gaydamak, who has been repeatedly investigated by police for a series of offenses, said upon entering the police station late Sunday morning that this was simply the latest attempt to discredit him.
"I haven't done anything," said the businessman. "The police are pursuing me because of my criticism of them." "It is especially interesting that I was called for investigation only a number of days after I established a new party," he added.
Despite his claims that he was a hapless victim of a police conspiracy, the billionaire was questioned by detectives of the National Fraud Squad at the unit's Bat Yam headquarters for over four hours.
In the possibly forged letter, which was ostensibly sent from the Justice Ministry to Russian law enforcement authorities, a senior ministry official requested that Russian authorities hand over information about Gaydamak and requested Russian cooperation in the event that Israel decided to arrest the billionaire. The letter also accused Gaydamak of laundering money in Israel and of "trying to bring down the Israeli government."
Shendar reviewed the matter and discovered that the document did not apparently originate in the Justice Ministry.
In response to those claims, Gaydamak's employees distributed a letter Sunday detailing all of the allegations leveled against him by the Israel Police and accusing the police and particularly Danino of trying to delegitimize him. "I call on the public to follow closely the actions of Danino and of the International and Serious Crimes Unit," Gaydamak said in the letter.
He echoed a similar note outside the courtroom, telling gathered media, "I am a citizen of the State of Israel and I will not allow people who act against the law and against morality to get away with it."
Gaydamak, who has participated in a protracted war of media attrition against Danino, threatened to submit an official complaint against police investigators for harassment.
"I will not allow this pursuit against me to continue. I am strong enough to fight back against it, and I must defend myself as a citizen," Gaydamak added.