Gaydamak: Billionaire mystery man

Arkadi Gaydamak, the enigmatic Russian billionaire who bought Betar this summer, is an riddle wrapped up in a mystery, and his exact fortune and business dealings have never been fully revealed. What is known is that the 53-year-old grew up in Moscow and moved to Israel in 1972 where he settled in Kibbutz Beit Hashita. Although he has said that he originally intended to serve in the Israeli Army, he set up a successful translation company and ended up moving to France six months after he arrived. Although he made money from the French operation, his real fortune came during the Soviet Perestroika era when Gaydamak allegedly facilitated arms deals between Russia, Czechoslovakia and most prominently, Angola. Gaydamak's reported dealings in Angola, and his connection with the son of former French president Francois Mitterand, prompted the French authorities to issue an arrest warrant on bribery and tax evasion charges, which he has completely denied. The warrants are outstanding. He was given honorary Angolan citizenship and holds both French and Canadian passports as well as Russian and Israeli ones. Gaydamak also courted controversy with his role in the decision to slash Angola's debt to the Russian government, for which he was paid a large commission, and his recent questioning under caution over involvement in the Bank Hapoalim money laundering scandal. The billionaire businessman has a house in Caesaria and regularly flies round the world to attend meetings. He is honorary president of World Betar and last month he even announced plans to launch his own political party. He is also president of the Congress of Jewish communities in Russia. By buying the Betar soccer club for an undisclosed sum from former owners Meir Fenigal and Meir Levy, as well as investing heavily in the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team, he has achieved celebrity status, and relative credibility in Israel - the reason that many believe he decided to enter the sporting arena in the first place.