Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday slammed Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer over the latter's decision to resettle in London, because the taxes there are lower. During a discussion on legislation to encourage investment, Lapid said that something ought to be done to prevent Ofer from moving. “We cannot allow individuals to become wealthy on the backs of the public,” said Lapid.
Ofer, 57, is the richest man in Israel, said to be worth some $6.5 billion, and number 182 on this year's list of Forbes billionaires list. Ofer, together with his brother Eyal, are the largest shareholders in the Israel Corporation, established by their father Sammy, who passed way in June 2011. The Israel Corporation is a holding company that owns dozens of corporations and businesses, among them the Zim shipping company.
If and when he does move, Ofer will join other Israeli and international businesspeople who have moved to London to take advantage of special tax breaks and incentives the British government gives to individuals with a net worth of at least one million pounds sterling. Among other Israelis currently in London is Lev Leviev, chairman of Africa Israel, who left for the UK about five years ago.
Speaking Wednesday, Lapid railed against the trend, and against Ofer's decision specifically. The subject came up when Lapid was given a list of companies that enjoy long-standing tax breaks – with a significant number of them wholly or partially owned by the Israel Corporation.
“We cannot have a situation where people get rich using public resources, and when the moment comes for them to pay their fair share in taxes they decide to pay them to a different country,” said Lapid, who said that he was “surprised” that so many companies were still enjoying tax breaks that were enacted for specific situations years ago that were no longer applicable.
Ofer's office did not respond Thursday to Lapid's criticism, referring to a statement issued last week when it was announced that he would move to London. “Idan Ofer is an international businessman who spends a significant amount of time outside of Israel,” the statement said.