Roman Abramovich
Roman AbramovichReuters

Russian Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich and the ZAKA organization filed a lawsuit against Bank Mizrahi for allegedly refusing to allow Abramovich to donate NIS 8 million to ZAKA to assist the organization during the war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization.

ZAKA is comprised of a series of voluntary community emergency response teams in Israel. The organization's volunteers were extremely active in providing rescue and medical care during the Hamas massacre of October 7. ZAKA has also been preparing for the possibility of war with the Hezbollah terrorist organization in the north.

Bank Mizrahi stated that Abramovich's account is blocked due to sanctions imposed on him by the European Union and British government in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The sanctions were imposed due to Abramovich's involvement in companies connected to the Russian government, in particular his 30% ownership of Russian steel company Evraz. Many of his assets in France and Britain have been seized.

In May of 2022, Abramovich sold the Chelsea Football Club, which he had owned for 19 years, for $5.2 billion. Abramovich reached an agreement with the British government to donate all of the proceeds from the sale to a fund for the Ukrainian victims of the Russian invasion.

Abramovich and ZAKA argue that the freeze on his account is illegal since he is an Israeli citizen who opened the account years before the European sanctions were imposed and because no sanctions have been imposed on him by the Israeli or American governments in connection with the ongoing Ukraine war.

The lawsuit states: "Since the outbreak of the war, ZAKA volunteers have been tirelessly engaged in a noble national mission. Its dedicated volunteers left their homes, their jobs, and their natural surroundings, in order to move between the scenes of horror in the Gaza Envelope and throughout the southern region and perform the most difficult task of locating and collecting the bodies of the victims, many of whom are in horrific physical condition."

"Furthermore, the organization's resources and the warehouses of the equipment used by it were completely depleted. The organization is also required to run a mental health program for its volunteers who have been exposed to difficult, horrific, and inhumane events and sights, and this is even by the standards in which ZAKA normally operates."

Abramovich's attorneys, Shmulik Cassouto and Bella Peled, stated that "It is unthinkable that during one of the most difficult times in the history of Zionism and the State, when the entire nation is united and fighting, Bank Mizrahi would block such a vital donation to one of the most important and vital organizations in Israel.”

Bank Mizrahi stated in response: stated in response: "We will not be able to refer to specific customers, for reasons of banking confidentiality. If a lawsuit is filed, we will give our position in court."