Arcadi Gaydamak

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Arcadi Gaydamak
Arcadi Gaydamak P5200026.JPG
Arcadi Gaydamak, May 2008.
Born 8 April 1952 (1952-04-08) (age 62)
Moscow, USSR
Residence Canada, Russia, Israel
Citizenship  Soviet Union

 Israel
 France
 Canada
 Angola
Occupation Businessman, investor, and philanthropist

Arcadi Aleksandrovich Gaydamak (Hebrew: ארקדי אלכסנדרוביץ' גאידמק; Russian: Аркадий Александрович Гайдамак; born April 8, 1952 in Moscow, USSR) is a Russian-born Israeli business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour. On April 29, 2011 the Court of Appeal in Paris acquitted him of charges of arms dealing. He is the owner of the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem, and in February 2007 announced the establishment of an Israeli social movement, Social Justice,[1] which became a political party in July 2007.[2] He ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Jerusalem in the November 2008 elections, receiving about 3.6% of the votes.

Biography[edit]

Arcadi Gaydamak was born in 1952 in Moscow, the capital of the USSR. At the age of 20, Gaydamak was one of the first Jews to emigrate to Israel from Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union and receive Israeli citizenship. He lived on Kibbutz Beit HaShita, and studied Hebrew at an ulpan. He said he originally intended to serve in the Israeli Army, but ended up moving to France, where he opened a translation bureau.[3] In 1982, Gaydamak Translations opened a branch in Canada. During that period he commenced international business, in import and export. After the collapse of the USSR, he built up ties in Russia and Kazakhstan and formed various business organizations across Europe.[citation needed]

Gaydamak won two citations from the French government: Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite[4][5] and the Ordre du Mérite agricole for helping to rescue two captured French pilots in the War in Bosnia in the 1990s, as well as two French intelligence officers captured by rebel factions in the Caucasus. According to Gaydamak, these operations were secret. Hence the citations spoke of his contribution to agriculture. Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua confirmed this, saying that then-president Jacques Chirac had personally authorized the citations.[4]

Gaydamak owns a home in Caesarea.,[3] is married to Irene Tzirolnicova and is a father of three children. He speaks Russian, French and English. He also speaks Portuguese and Hebrew on a basic level.

In December 2008 it was reported that Gaydamak left Israel and moved to Moscow.[6] In February 2009 it was reported that he seeks to regain the Russian citizenship he lost when he emigrated to Israel.[7]

Gaydamack was granted honorary Angolan citizenship and holds French, Canadian and Israeli passports.

Angola affair[edit]

Main article: Angolagate

In October 2009, Gaydamak and French magnate Pierre Falcone were convicted by a French court of organizing arms trafficking in Angola during the civil war in 1993-1998 in the amount of 790 million dollars, in violation of the Lusaka Protocol. He was sentenced in absentia to six years in prison, but his conviction on the arms dealing charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Paris on April 29, 2011. He is currently in Israel. France had attempted unsuccessfully to extradite Gaydamak from Israel, although Israeli law has changed in the interim and extradition is now possible.[8] It has been claimed by Peter Storrie that this situation helped to precipitate the financial crisis at Portsmouth Football Club. The club was owned by his son Alexandre, and the allegations caused banks to withdraw overdraft facilities from the club, and to demand total repayment.[9]

Politics[edit]

Arcadi Gaydamak during a press conference, February 2007

In February 2007, Gaydamak founded a party devoted to socio-economic issues which he named Social Justice.[10] Although the organization was established as a social movement, he said it could become a political party if the circumstances warranted it. In late 2007, the party contemplated taking part in the 2008 municipal elections.[11]

Gaydamak ran for Mayor of Jerusalem in November 2008, but he received only 3.6% of the vote and his party won no seats on the city council. During the campaign, Gaydamak courted the East Jerusalem Palestinian vote. Gaydamak approached the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Palestinian political figures and media, and came away with as close to an endorsement as one could hope for.[12]

Gaydamak's politics are what he labels as "outreach", encompassing different segments of Israeli society. However, in an August 2008 speech, he voiced opposition to the Jerusalem gay pride parade and said he would die before allowing it to take place again.[13]

Sport clubs and media ownership[edit]

In July 2005, Gaydamak became sponsor of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team. The following month he donated $400,000 to the Israeli Arab Bnei Sakhnin football club. On the same day Gaydamak announced the purchase of 55% of the ownership of Beitar Jerusalem, and two days later he announced the acquisition of full ownership. Gaydamak is the patron of several Jewish charities and president of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia (KEROOR), Russia's oldest Jewish umbrella group. In the summer of 2008, Arcadi claimed his son Alexandre was owner of Portsmouth F.C. and it was confirmed by the Premier League.[14]

In March 2006 he announced his offer to buy the French newspaper France Soir via his company Moscow News.[15] He had purchased the Russian Moskovskie Novosti newspaper in 2004, fired some senior journalists, and changed the paper's mandate to a firmly pro-government one, appointing a pro-Putin journalist as editor in chief. This was widely viewed as hostile to free speech and raised questions about Gaydamak's possible ties to the Kremlin.[16]

In June 2007, Gaydamak negotiated a deal to buy the non-kosher supermarket chain Tiv Taam. According to newspaper reports, he was planning to close the stores on Shabbat and halt the sale of pork products.[17] However, a few days later the deal fell through, resulting in a lawsuit.[18]

In July 2009, Gaydamak announced his decision to give up the ownership of Beitar Jerusalem in favor of Itzik Kornfein and Guma Aguiar. Kornfein would handle buying and selling players, while Aguair would engage in financing.[19]

Philanthropy and community service[edit]

A Pashkevil appreciating Arcadi Gaydamak's contributions to Jerusalem, 2007

Gaydamak has donated to many Israeli organizations, including Magen David Adom and Hatzolah. He also pledged $50 million to the Jewish Agency for Israel, but withdrew the offer when the Jewish Agency was warned about money laundering allegations. He ended up donating $10 million.

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict Gaydamak constructed a tent-village on the beach of Nitzanim, hosting thousands of families who fled the rocket-ridden North and had no place to go. Gaydamak's contributions totaled $15 million (about $500,000 a day). In November 2006, he funded a one-week long vacation in Eilat for hundreds of Sderot residents who have experienced rocket attacks from Gaza.[20]

Bank Hapoalim affair[edit]

In October 2009, Gaydamak was indicted in the Tel Aviv District Court on suspicions of money laundering through Bank Hapoalim together with several managers of the bank and the Italian-Israeli businessman Nahum Galmor.[21] In a Plea Deal, Charges for laundering money have been dropped by the court of justice ; Gaydamak received one year suspended sentence and fine [22]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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