New details surrounding the allegations of drug abuse and solicitation of prostitutes against Likud MK Oren Hazan emerged Tuesday evening, hours after he was suspended from his duties as deputy Knesset speaker.
Hazan maintained his innocence throughout the day Tuesday, but a Channel 2 report appeared to tie Hazan to a Bulgarian casino where a number of people alleged he would hire prostitutes for guests and bought and smoked crystal meth.
According to a report on Channel 1 Tuesday, soon after the swearing-in of the Knesset, a Bulgarian official contacted Israeli officials and asked that Hazan not be involved in any relations between the two countries.
The allegations first surfaced Monday evening in a Channel 2 report, drawing a threat of a libel suit from Hazan. After the exposé, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein ordered Hazan be suspended from his deputy speaker duties.
Tuesday’s report presented a photocopied contract in Hebrew relating to the operation of a casino, as well as a Facebook status alluding to the fact that Hazan owned or operated the the Burgas casino — an allegation he has repeatedly denied.
“A new casino was opened in Burgas, in Sunny Beach[…] with [option] for transportation to and from the casino 24 hours a day[…] And all the amenities guests require. We will be happy to see you among our guests,” the TV channel quoted from the Facebook page.
It also quoted an email from Hazan where he signed off as the casino’s “CEO.”
Hazan has maintained that he never managed the casino but a hotel “where there was also a casino,” and that it was managed by a person he had no contact with.
According to Channel 2, however, the casino in question is not inside a hotel, and the hotel he claimed to have managed has had the same management for over 20 years — and is not Hazan.
A former friend of Hazan, interviewed by the television station with a blurred face and distorted voice, recalled times in Burgas, Bulgaria, where Hazan had “marijuana and crystal meth and we sniffed it.”
Asked whether Hazan also partook, the man said “yeah, totally.”
“I can say with certainty that I remember one case where I was sitting with a guy… actually two guys, one of them came to Oren really naturally and asked – ‘can you get me a girl for tonight?’ and Oren was like ‘yeah, consider it done’,” said the man, who added that he is willing to take a lie detector test.
“Everything that drives Oren Hazan is this swagger: ‘I’ll take care of you, I’ll take care of everything’,” he recounted.
He said he was deeply hurt by Hazan’s behavior, and without going into details said “many more” people were hurt by his conduct. “He hurts people in the most disgraceful, lowly way possible… What they say about him now is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Asked about Hazan’s denying the details of an earlier television report on his conduct, the man said “he is lying, everyone who knows him knows it’s an inseparable part of his personality, he’s a pathological liar. I think he even believes his own lies because he can be quite convincing.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hazan reportedly threatened to dig up embarrassing information about Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, after he banned him from chairing Knesset sessions.
Sources in Edelstein’s bureau said Hazan threatened that he will find scandalous information about the Knesset Speaker and wouldn’t hesitate to publicize it, Israel Radio reported.
According to the unnamed sources, Hazan had called Edelstein to speak with him but the Speaker asked one of his assistants to take the call instead.
During the ensuing conversation, Hazan reportedly delivered his threat against Edelstein, who has been an MK for nearly 20 years, and Knesset Speaker since 2013.
Hazan, 33, has denied all the allegations against him, and told Edelstein that he had no plans to leave his position as deputy Knesset speaker, as a maelstrom of condemnation turned the scandal into a full-blown farce.
The lawmaker only ranked a lowly 30 in the Likud election list and became an MK after his party won a surprising 30 seats in March elections.
The initial exposé Monday quoted two Israeli tourists and a casino employee who confirmed that Hazan would provide prostitutes for his guests in the Burgas casino, where he held a stake. Both prostitution and hard-drug use are illegal in Bulgaria.
The report quoted Hazan’s chauffeur in Bulgaria to the effect that Hazan would send him to the Red Rose escort service to pick up prostitutes a few times a week for his friends. Hazan would cover the cost of the prostitutes, at some €50 ($56) an hour, the driver said.
“Oren was the big boss,” Sonya, the manager of “Red Rose,” told the TV channel. “He had a lot of friends. It was good. His driver would come here, talk to me, I would tell him the price and he would take [the women]. First he would pay, and then they would leave together.”
She appeared incredulous when the interviewer informed her that her former boss had gone into politics in Israel.
Shortly after the segment aired on Monday, Hazan’s attorney Avraham Keren sent a letter to Channel 2 and Segal, accusing them of libel and demanding that they retract the story and apologize.