The Shmooze

Gaydamak Is Back in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

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Talk about a disappearing act. Love him or (as many do) hate him, there’s no disputing that Russian oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak used to be a star in his adopted home, Israel. Famed for his generosity — or some would more cynically say his self-promotion — he aided northern Israeli towns damaged in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. In November of that same year, he bused 800 residents of rocket-plagued Sderot to Eilat for all-expenses-paid vacations. He has described himself as “the most popular public figure in Israel.” Two-and-a-half years ago he was busy trying to set up his own Knesset party. A few months after that, he competed in the election for mayor of Jerusalem.

When the going got tough, however, and he was quick to get out, and in December 2008 as things started moving with police investigations into alleged money laundering, Gaydamak left Israel. Ten months after that he was indicted in absentia. Now, if Israeli media reports such as this one are to be believed, he has quietly slipped back into Israel. Intriguing, given that his original departure from Israel seemed to be intended to avoid legal proceedings, and also because Israel has an extradition agreement with France where he is a wanted man for alleged arms dealing. Watch this space; if there’s one thing we know about Gaydamak it’s that if back in Israel, he won’t be able to keep quiet for long.


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