Local Soccer: Kornfein reveals bizarre money demand episode

Betar Jerusalem chairman dismisses claims by former owner Dadash that he has been appointed club president.

itzik kornfein betar 224 (photo credit: Channel 1)
itzik kornfein betar 224
(photo credit: Channel 1)
There never seems to be a dull moment at Betar Jerusalem. Club chairman Itzik Kornfein called a surprise press conference on Wednesday where he revealed that he had been approached by a man named Daniel Azugi, who claimed to be one of Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak's advisers and demanded to be transferred money from the club's account. After investigating Azugi's background Kornfein refused to give him any money without expressed permission from Gaydamak, even though former Betar chairman Moshe Dadash had vouched for Azugi. The press conference came a day after Dadash publicly claimed that Gaydamak has appointed him as club president and Kornfein will have to report directly to him. Responding to the claims, Kornfein said: "I haven't heard about Dadash being named the Betar president and I have no intention of cooperating with this. The only person authorized to speak on Arkadi's behalf is me. "I spoke to Gaydamak two days ago and he told me to continue as usual. He hasn't spoken to me about Dadash." Kornfein admitted that there is an unstable atmosphere at the club which won the last two Israeli Premier League titles, especially since last month when Gaydamak left Israel for Russia and has shown no signs of planning to return in the near future. "My only concern is Betar's future and at the moment a big question mark hangs over the club." The story of Azugi's requests for millions of shekels captivated the journalists in the Betar office in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood on Wednesday. "I met Azugi a month ago and gave him information about Betar, believing he is truly a Gaydamak representative," Kornfein said. "At the end of the meeting he asked me to transfer several million shekels from the club, a move which would have bankrupted Betar. "I turned him down. After a week he asked to meet me again and in that meeting he requested that I personally transfer him half-a-million shekels. I refused and told him the next day that I'm not interested in having any connection with him. That same day he threatened me." According to Kornfein, Azugi, who has been convicted of fraud in the past, called him the following day and then passed the phone on to Dadash. "Dadash told me that Azugi has Betar's interests at heart," Kornfein said. "I don't know if Dadash knew who this man was and what he was doing. I told Dadash that I have no intention of cooperating with Azugi. "I know that what I'm saying might harm me personally, but I have a commitment to Betar and to the people who work at Betar. Taking money out of the Betar account doesn't match the principles on which I was raised." In response to Kornfein's claims, Dadash said he has no connection with Azugi and only spoke to Kornfein because he believed Azugi was a Gaydamak representative. In an interview with Tel Aviv radio on Wednesday, Azugi confirmed that he had met Kornfein, but claimed that he had been hired by Gaydamak to help the club out of its financial difficulties and only asked for money as his fee. "I'm an expert in struggling companies and Arkadi hired me to help Betar," Azugi said. "In my second meeting with Kornfein I told him that for my work I demand half-a-million shekels, but he said it can't be done just like that. I never asked for five million shekels, my only request was for half-a-million shekels for five months work."