Lawyers: Gaydamak may stand trial in Israel soon

Gaydamak given 6-year ja

October 27, 2009 18:20
2 minute read.

Russian-Israeli businessman Arkadi Gaydamak will probably return to Israel in a few weeks to stand trial for fraud and money laundering, according to a statement made by his lawyers on Army Radio Wednesday. Gaydamak, who has recently been living in Moscow, may then be extradited by Israel to France, the lawyers were quoted as saying. Gaydamak was given a six-year prison sentence in absentia on Tuesday by a Paris court, after being charged with $790 million worth of illegal arms trafficking to the Angolan government in the post-Cold War era. He was indicted for arms-dealing and money-laundering. A total of 42 politicians, businessmen and prominent French figures have stood trial during the past year over the scandal, which first surfaced in 2000 after seven years of illicit trafficking. French arms dealer Pierre Falcone, Gaydamak's business partner, was also given a six-year sentence. Jean-Cristophe Mitterand, son of the late French president Francois Mitterand, was given a suspended two-year sentence and a hefty fine. Former French interior minister Charles Pasque was fined €100,000 and given a one-year jail sentence. Although Gaydamak holds French citizenship, he was not present at Tuesday's Paris court session. The trafficking deal, commonly known as "Angola-gate," supplied military equipment to Angolan President José Eduardo de Santos during his country's civil war, which was brought to an end in 2002 after causing 500,000 casualties, displacing millions and spawning a humanitarian disaster. Santos and his communist militiamen fought against the US-backed Angolan unity movement, UNITA, and defeated them using weapons, warships, tanks and other arms supplied by the trafficking ring. Gaydamak and Falcone were charged with forging connections with politicians in the war-torn, oil-rich African republic in the early 1990s and going on to commit bribery, tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement. It is rumored that the ring had agreed to the weapons deals in exchange for Santos's permission to drill for oil in the area. The Angola-gate trial began in Paris last November 11, the day of Israeli local elections, in which Gaydamak ran for mayor of Jerusalem. Gaydamak was indicted earlier in October by the Tel Aviv District Court for allegedly laundering NIS 650 million and for fraud, in a scandal also purportedly involving Bank Hapoalim. He had left Israel for Russia several months previously, leaving behind a large sum to guarantee that he would return if charged. "You never know what that man is going to do. Allow me to remind you that he said he would be present at the France trial, but was the only one who didn't show," retired Meretz MK Yossi Sarid told Army Radio on Wednesday morning. "[Gaydamak's] partner Falcone was taken to prison immediately following the trial, even though he plans to appeal," said Sarid, emphasizing that Tuesday's court ruling, which he said confirmed Gaydamak's guilt, made extradition all the more probable. "The laws have changed," he said, adding that trafficking is now considered a crime in Israel. It was unclear whether Gaydamak, who has protested his innocence from the outset, will leave Russia to serve his prison sentence, as France and Russia do not have an extradition agreement.

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