Police said Monday that billionaire businessman Arkadi Gaydamak could potentially be extradited to stand trial in France if Paris issued an official request for his arrest.
Gaydamak has been indicted in a French court on a variety of serious charges, including arms trafficking.
The 494-page indictment included charges of illegal weapons trading and misappropriation of funds. It described at length how the businessman allegedly traded in used weapons that were acquired by a number of African interests for use in the continent's bloody wars in the early 1990s.
According to the indictment, the Soviet-made weapons were acquired in Eastern Europe and then sold in Cameroon and Angola, another country of which Gaydamak holds citizenship. He also allegedly operated a lobby in Paris that shielded the business.
In the end, the African gun money allegedly returned to Gaydamak's hands, and to his bank accounts in various cities, including Tel Aviv.
Gaydamak has emphatically denied the allegations against him, arguing that they were merely the inventions of rivals who sought to discredit him.
Gaydamak holds French citizenship, having immigrated to that country from the Soviet Union at the age of 19. In 1972, he relocated to Israel and last week, concordant with the delivery of the French indictment, he launched his Social Justice Party.
But even if France does request Gaydamak's extradition, there is a chance that he still may manage to evade trial. Thirty years ago, Israel refused to extradite former MK Samuel Flatto-Sharon, who was indicted in France for the alleged embezzlement of an estimated $60 million. Although France has requested Flatto-Sharon's extradition, Israel never did turn over the one-term former MK.
French foreign ministry representatives said that it was the Israeli government's responsibility now to handle his arrest and interrogation, and later to decide whether to begin the extradition process. According to the foreign ministry, one outstanding arrest order was already issued against the billionaire in 2000.
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