An Israeli-born businessman at the center of a suspected embezzlement scam that spirited $1 billion from Moldovan banks was set to appear in court on Monday as growing outrage raised fears of backlash against local Jews.
Ilan Shor, 28, has been under house arrest for a week and was expected to show up for a court hearing in the capital, Kishinev.
The businessman, who was born in Tel Aviv but moved to the Eastern European country with his family when he still a toddler, was accused of embezzling the funds through a group of companies that took over three local banks.
The Unibank, Banca Sociala, and Banca de Economii then allegedly gave him collateral free loans on the money that amounts to about one eighth of the impoverished country’s gross domestic product.
As the money was moved offshore, the banks were brought to the brink of insolvency.
According to a Channel 2 report, members of the local Jewish community have become increasingly concerned that rising public anger at the case could be taken out on them.
Marina Lecarteva, Director of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, said that animosity towards Jews was a problem.
“There is a lot of anti-Semitism here, especially on the Internet,” she said.”Because he [Shor] is a Jew, the community is concerned. The masses identify him as a Jew — people here are furious about the embezzlement and make the connection to the community.”
There has not been any violence yet, Lecarteva noted, but the community was still uneasy.
“We remember the history and the riots of Kishinev,” she said referring to pogroms in 1903 and 1905 in which dozens of Jews were slaughtered, hundreds injured, and hundreds of homes and businesses looted and destroyed.
Thousands of outraged demonstrators already held a rally on May 5.
Details of the alleged financial swindle came to light in a report by corporate risk-management firm Kroll that found the companies that maneuvered to take over the banks were all linked to Shor, who is chairman the Banca de Economii.
According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, records of financial transactions were deleted from bank computers and some documents were removed and put in a car — owned by one of Shor’s companies — that was subsequently stolen and then torched.
Shor has said the accusations are “groundless” and that he intends to work with authorities to clarify the truth of the matter.
Although married to well-known Russian singer Jasmine, Shor himself has preferred to stay out of the public eye. He inherited his father’s business and made a fortune by operating duty free shops. He also own to television stations and a soccer club.