Police open new Gaydamak investigation

Latest allegations claim billionaire gave cash to garner votes for upcoming J'lem municipal elections.

gaydamak aj 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
gaydamak aj 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Police have decided to launch a new votes-for-money investigation into billionaire tycoon Arkadi Gaydamak, hours after he formally announced his candidacy for the Jerusalem mayoralty on Wednesday. The investigation will be headed by the National Fraud Unit and was opened following a complaint received by the Movement for Quality Government, which claimed Gaydamak had handed out cash-filled envelopes in his home while declaring, "Next year in the Jerusalem municipality." The complaint was based on footage shot by a Channel 2 camera in March, which "shows Gaydamak holding a fundraising event at his home... in which he gave each yeshiva [head] present between NIS 1,000 and NIS 2,000, while every individual received NIS 200-600." Gaydamak's declaration and the cash gifts form a clear attempt to link the money with votes, the Movement for Quality Government charged. Gaydamak dismissed the allegations, telling The Jerusalem Post that he had been engaged in charity in Israel for years and that the incident in question was nothing more than the distribution of Purim gifts. "We live in a police state," he said. "What the police are doing is a disgrace. One hour after I announce my campaign, they invent this charge that I gave money during Purim. I always do this [give Purim gifts]," he said. Gaydamak listed the many charitable causes to which he had donated, such as the Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem. "I gave millions to the hospital, which is where victims of the bulldozer terror attack came to. Why don't they accuse me of buying the votes of terror victims who were treated there?" Gaydamak said. In June, the Knesset's National Voting Committee rejected a petition by the Movement for Quality Government to ban Gaydamak from giving out funds to potential voters. Judge Eliezer Rivlin wrote in his ruling that he accepted Gaydamak's statement that he would not distribute any more funds before the upcoming elections, as such gift-giving only occurred on Hanukka or Purim, both of which fall after the elections. Also Wednesday, Gaydamak named former Beit Hanassi director-general Aryeh Shumer as head of his campaign headquarters. Public opinion polls put Gaydamak a distant third in a three-way race against current Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and city opposition leader Nir Barkat. A potential match-up between Lupolianski, Barkat and Gaydamak is likely to boost Lupolianski's chances of winning reelection, since the non-haredi vote would be split between two secular candidates.