Arkadi Gaydamak 88.
(photo credit: )
Police believe there is enough evidence to charge Russian billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak for laundering $52 million via an account at Bank Hapoalim's Hayarkon branch in Tel Aviv, a senior officer has said.
Detectives at the Serious and International Crimes Unit (SICU) passed the file to prosecutors on Thursday after questioning the Betar Jerusalem owner a number of times over the past few months for his role in a massive money-laundering scheme at the bank, a spokeswoman said.
However, she denied reports that the police had recommended he be charged.
"The police don't recommend, because it is forbidden for us to recommend. The prosecutor has taken the file and will read the material and the summary of the investigation. From this, they will decide if there is enough evidence to charge Gaydamak and put him on trial," the spokeswoman said.
"He didn't report the money he placed and withdrew from the account, and this is called moneylaundering," she said.
Gaydamak and his lawyer denied any wrongdoing.
"I would like to ask the police today, for what reason did they begin to investigate me?" Gaydamak said.
Lawyer Ronel Fisher said the investigation against Gaydamak finished without success.
"They didn't even begin to find any evidence of money laundering or of any other crime," he said in a statement.
Fisher also denied reports that Gaydamak had offered to pay NIS 100m. in order to have the case closed.
"These reports were born at the SICU as part of an attempt to create an air of guilt. We have never offered to pay even one agora, as no one has told us what we need to pay for," said Fisher.
During their investigation, police discovered that Gaydamak surprisingly withdrew the money from his account at the Hapoalim branch just before they raided it in March last year, when they first disclosed details of the probe.
When Gaydamak was initially taken in for questioning at the end of November, he was interrogated for ten hours and then released from police custody after posting NIS 1m. in bail. Police also confiscated his passport and forbade him to leave the country.
Should Gaydamak be charged, he will be the most high-profile person so far to be indicted in the moneylaundering scheme, which is the biggest in Israel's history. In March last year, the police froze $372m. in client assets and arrested 22 employees on suspicion of using two methods to launder illegally obtained funds.
A month ago, prosecutors charged the head of the French desk and the head of customer relations at the branch for their involvement in the affair, adding them to an indictment that already included three customers.
The investigation has also taken in Israel's Ambassador to the UK Zvi Hefetz, who was questioned due to his close ties with Russian businessman and Ma'ariv newspaper shareholder Vladimir Gusinsky, one of the suspects in the case.