The Last Word: Moni and his money

The Last Word Moni and

October 23, 2009 08:45
3 minute read.

When the news of Moni Fanan's suicide broke on Monday morning, few Israeli sports fans could have foreseen the potentially massive implications of the former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team manager's death. At the time of writing, no suicide note has been discovered, so nobody knows for sure why Fanan killed himself. But the numerous, mostly anonymous, revelations splashed across the Hebrew press throughout this week that former players and coaches in the Israeli basketball league invested in a scheme run by Fanan and have been left out of pocket, have left a bad taste in many people's mouths. Initially it was reported that Fanan's wife Sharon blamed Maccabi for upsetting Moni by not inviting him to Maccabi chairman Shimon Mizrahi's birthday party, thus encouraging him to take his own life. However, by Monday evening rumors began to circulate that Fanan had been running a multi-million dollar investment scheme, apparently in the "grey market," and he had lost large amounts of funds for clients including many former Maccabi players. The assumption was that Fanan had found himself in such a difficult situation that he could not bear to carry on. As the week went on, the scope of the Fanan case continued to widen, with the British media claiming English financier Nicholas Levene, who is reported to have lost £200 million of clients' funds in recent months, had used Fanan as his Israeli arm. Dozens of ex-players and coaches, including current Russia coach David Blatt, have been named by the Hebrew media as having trusted Fanan with hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money in his 16 years at Maccabi, which ended in July last year when he left the club by mutual consent. Blatt, like nearly everyone who may have been involved, has refused to discuss the issue, saying he has no obligation to discuss his personal financial situation with the media. And when Maccabi finally returned from its preseason tour of North America on Thursday morning, club chairman Mizrahi said he knew nothing of any Moni's involvement in players' finances and asked the media to leave Maccabi alone and in quiet. It is difficult to believe that, even if only a small proportion of the rumors turn out to be true, Mizrahi had no idea what was going on at the club he heads. And if he really didn't, then that is also a significant cause for concern. Unfortunately for Mizrahi, it is not going to be possible for the media, or any authorities, to step away and ignore the situation. The revelations have far too many implications, be they criminal, tax-based, or professional. Mizrahi can't have it both ways. If he wants to make millions from creating an image of Maccabi Tel Aviv as "Israel's team" and encourage the whole country to watch it play in the Euroleague every Thursday night, then he can't expect the media to ignore the team the other six days of the week. Fanan is alleged to have been involved in the crime world, but no criminal investigation has been opened as there have been no official complaints to the police. However, a tax investigation into Fanan's earnings was opened on Thursday, and it could start to allow the real story to emerge. At the same time, the Israel Basketball Association said on Wednesday that it was likely to launch an investigation into rumors that referees invested in Fanan's funds. As yet no professional basketball body is expected to look into the current and former players and coaches who have been linked with Fanan's allegedly shady deals. IBA chairman Shai Shani admitted to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that, while there is a code of ethics that referees have to abide by, there is none for players and coaches, and it is only now that the regulatory body is considering creating one. This is a good reaction, but it is a bit late now, as any new code will not be implemented retroactively. It is at least comforting to know that this is all out in the open and it is now down to the relevant authorities to look into and find out what Moni Fanan was really doing at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

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