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Haaretz: Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s arrest linked to real-estate deals in Romania, Police say

Beny Steinmetz’ alleged complicity in money laundering in in Romania is connected to his Monday arrest in Israel, an investigator told the court.

The arrest of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz Monday on suspicions that include fraud and money laundering is connected to a case against him in Romania, police and other sources say, haarets.com informs.

During Steinmetz’s remand hearing at the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court on Monday, senior investigating officer Avshalom Ahrak said that the allegations against him also concern alleged wrongdoings in Romania. In March 2016, Steinmetz was indicted by the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) for complicity in money laundering, peddling influence and forming an organized crime group with 13 other suspects, which included Silberstein. According to Attila Biro from the Romanian investigative Rise Project, the trial began in January this year, and there have been 20 hearings this far. His sources, he said, have told him that some of the charges that led to Steinmetz’s arrest in Israel are related to the Romanian case.

The Rise Project report said that, according to the DNA, Steinmetz had financed a criminal group that sought to acquire a large property claimed by 67-year-old Paul Lambrino, the nephew of the last king of Romania. The group was coordinated in Romania by a local businessman, Remus Truica, the chief of staff to former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. Nastase was eventually sentenced to prison for corruption. Truica and Steinmetz have a long history together, having worked as partners 16 years ago in a Romanian real estate company.

According to the Rise Project report, prosecutors claimed that Steinmetz had transferred 4 million euros ($4.7 million) to be used in the allegedly illegal acquisition of the former royal property – now highly expensive land near the capital of Bucharest. That money was used to make a purchase for an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, a leader in creating shell companies that often serve to conceal ownership of assets. That company became the legal owner of two swaths of land for Steinmetz’s local partners. One was the former royal farm Baneasa in Bucharest, and the second was a nearby forest. Prosecutors said the two allegedly illegal land deals cost the state €145 million ($170 million) in damages.

Tal Silberstein, who stands accused of similar crimes alongside Steinmetz, hired the prominent strategist Moshe Klughaft as a subcontractor for some of his work, though Klughaft is not linked to the current investigation, haarets.com condludes.

Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, a well-known strategic adviser (and former banker) and three other businessmen were detained for questioning under caution on Monday over allegedly using fake contracts to move and launder money.

As ‘Romania Journal’ informed early this week, in Romania Beny Steinmetz is investigated in files related to the retrocession of some plots of land from the former royal Baneasa Farm and from Snagov Forest to Paul Philippe of Romania (aka Prince Paul of Romania), regarding the involvement of defendants Tal Silberstein, Beny Steinmetz, Moshe Agavi and others in the retrocession procedures or about the purchase agreements related to those plots of land.

Benyamin Steinmetz allegedly was the leader of a network for illegal retrocession and the one who paid the money to buy influence, the Romanian prosecutors say.

About Valeriu Lazar