Gaydamak blasts police for questioning on money laundering

Billionaire tycoon also slams police conduct in Olmert investigation, although the two are known to clash often.

arkadi gaydamak 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
arkadi gaydamak 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Billionaire tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak slammed what he described as "the police's personal and political persecution of me" after the Serious and International Crime Unit (SICU) questioned him at the their Petah Tikva headquarters on Monday. Accusing the police of "harassing people for no reason," Gaydamak went as far as to criticize the police's conduct in its investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, although the two are known to clash often. A police spokeswoman said, "Gaydamak was interrogated over suspicions of money laundering on Monday," adding, "We can't go into the specific allegations. He was questioned for an hour and 15 minutes." Several months ago, the SICU recommended that Gaydamak be indicted for money laundering, but "the state prosecution requested that we complete [a number of lines of inquiry,]" the spokeswoman said. Gaydamak vehemently denies reports that, in 2000, he transferred nearly half a million shekels out of a Bank Hapoalim account as part of a larger money laundering plot. A Bank of Israel investigation into the transfer, launched after it emerged that the transaction was not reported to Israel's central bank as required by law, has also implicated a number of Bank Hapoalim officials in the affair, according to reports "These are lies - withdrawing money from a bank account isn't a crime, and even that I did not do. Anyone who says I did something wrong with the money is a liar and a criminal," Gaydmak said. "This interrogation is part of a baseless persecution which the police has been involved in for many years. The police didn't ask me about anything new - it is always the same... they asked me about my industrial activities 10 years ago in a Kazakhstan industrial factory." In April 1999, Gaydamak invested in the Tsellinnoye Chemical Metallurgical plant, which produces polymetals and chemical products. The plant produced enriched uranium for the Soviet nuclear program, and some reports claim it is still the biggest uranium manufacturer in Kazakhstan, through Gaydamak dismisses such claims, and maintains that the plant only makes fertilizers these days. Last month, the State Prosecutors enlisted help from authorities in Luxembourg while checking suspicions of fraud and money laundering in the alleged Hapoalim transfer. Gaydamak, founder of the recent 'Social Justice - Justice for Pensioners' Knesset faction, added that the "police are trying to deny me the possibility of entering politics. The police can harass people for no reason, demolish their lives, cause moral and material damage... they think they have supreme power from the sky," Gaydamak said. Of Olmert, he added, "I don't understand why they needed to bother him during a very important state visit by US President Bush, why couldn't they wait a few days? I have spoken very openly of my opinions about the prime minister; I think my position is very clear. But why did the police absolutely need to persecute him during Bush's visit?"