A lengthy investigative exposé in Haaretz targeting Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) has unearthed connections between the financier of the corruption-laden Oasis Casino in Jericho and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon.
Lieberman is currently being investigated for receiving a bribe from Austrian-Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff.
Schlaff “was known during the Cold War for his ties with the East German secret police, the Stasi,” Haaretz reports. It also notes the fact that he met with Yitzchak Rabin hours before Rabin was murdered on November 4, 1995. He established the Jericho casino with the help of former Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri during Binyamin Netanyahu’s term as prime minister. The two were introduced by Dov Weissglas, who went on to be the architect of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement as a consultant to Sharon.
Many see the casino as one of the most corruption-laden aspects of the Oslo Accords. For years, gambling moguls lobbied for a casino in Israel and were rebuffed. Finally, with the “Gaza and Jericho First” stage of the Oslo Accords, in which the two areas were relinquished to PLO control, the Knesset no longer needed to approve the casino’s establishment.
While it remained illegal to gamble in Israel, Israelis flocked to the Jericho casino to gamble there, forking over an average of a million dollars a day. Local Arabs were barred from gambling there by the nascent Palestinian Authority.
At the start of the Oslo War, after Arab terrorists used the casino to fire at IDF soldiers and a tank blew a hole in the front of it, Schlaff tried to broker a cease-fire to get the casino running again. The biggest Haaretz revelation was that he did so through then-mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, who would meet with Yasser Arafat’s confidant Mohammad Rashid, a partner in the casino.
Olmert, Rashid and Schlaff met at least six times, with the last meeting including Shas Chairman Eli Yishai and Atty. Dov Weissglass, Haaretz says.
Schlaff is now afraid to set foot in Israel, as he is being investigated for giving out millions of dollars in bribes to Lieberman and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police have concluded that Schlaff transferred $3 million in bribes to Sharon through South African millionaire Cyril Kern to open offshore casinos on boats docked in Eilat. Austrian police confirmed that Sharon accepted the bribes.
The original Haaretz interest in the case was a series of articles by left-wing activist-turned-journalist Uri Blau, who was determined to expose Lieberman’s corruption, even at the cost of bringing down Olmert and Sharon.
Blau reported that $650,000 was transferred from an Austrian company owned by Schlaff to a Cyprus-based company “police suspect” was controlled by Lieberman on August 14, 2001 (while he was serving as Minister of Infrastructures in the Sharon government). Lieberman had established the company, originally named Nativ el HaMizrach (“Path to the East”) in 1998. Schlaff says the money was payment for Ukrainian lumber mills bought from the company. The article says, “Police suspect the money was a bribe.” It was not speculated for what the bribe was made.
Lieberman’s lawyer’s response: "Nativ el Hamizrach was sold by Lieberman in April 2001, and since then he has had no connection with it, and therefore he has no idea what happened to the company four months later."
The investigation against Lieberman and his daughter have been ongoing for years, but suddenly became active again once he left the government last week.