By BEN HARTMAN
The son of Austrian Jewish refugees from World War II, 57-year-old entrepreneur Martin Schlaff found himself again in the spotlight on Monday after he helped broker the release of an Israeli photographer held for six months in Libya.Schlaff, who has business dealings with Libya, was asked to become involved by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with whom he has close ties.RELATED:Israeli released in Libya returnsOne of the richest people in Austria, Schlaff’s net worth is estimated to be over €2 billion.A prominent philanthropist and supporter of the arts, Schlaff initially built his fortune during the Cold War, when he and his brother James took control of the commercial firm Robert Placzek AG and began actively trading with East Germany.Since then, he has been investigated on a number of occasions due to allegations that he cut deals with Stasi, the East German secret police, and that he traded embargoed goods with East Germany.In 1998, Schlaff joined Yasser Arafat in opening the Oasis casino in Jericho. The casino quickly became a major hit with Israelis, who could not legally gamble within the Green Line. Despite its initial success, the Oasis closed its doors in 2000 following widespread violence in the West Bank with the outbreak of the second intifada.Schlaff has been the subject of a number of police investigations in Israel that focused on his relationship with Lieberman and former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Among the allegations, police suspect Schlaff operated a number of shell companies to illegally fund Lieberman’s 2006 election campaign, and that he paid off a debt accrued by Sharon during his campaign for the Likud primary in 1999.In April, Schlaff chose not to attend his father Haim’s funeral in Jerusalem, as he was unable to receive assurances from police that he would not be arrested if he came to Israel.Schlaff also made headlines across Europe in 1998, when he paid out €200 million to his ex-wife – one of the largest divorce settlements in the history of Europe.
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