Convicted tycoon Nochi Dankner goes to jail, says ‘It’s all for the better’

Former IDB head enters Ma’asiyahu prison for 3-year sentence after being convicted of securities-related offenses, calls it ‘a difficult day for me and my family’

Former IDB Group chairman Nochi Dankner arrives at the Ma'asiyahu Prison in Lod to serve his three year sentence on October 2, 2018. (Flash90)
Former IDB Group chairman Nochi Dankner arrives at the Ma'asiyahu Prison in Lod to serve his three year sentence on October 2, 2018. (Flash90)

Businessman Nochi Dankner began serving a three-year prison sentence on Tuesday morning for stock manipulation and other securities-related convictions.

“This occasion is a difficult day for me and my family,” Dankner told reporters at the entrance to Ma’asiyahu Prison in the central city of Ramle.

“I have fought to prove my innocence. I trust God that it’s all for the better. I have faith in the justice and legal system and very much love the State of Israel,” he added before entering the prison.

He is expected to be housed at Wing 10, the so-called “VIP wing,” where former prime minister Ehud Olmert was also incarcerated.

After the former controlling shareholder of IDB Holding Corp. appealed his sentence, the Supreme Court in August increased it from two years to three over his role in carrying out millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent transactions in an attempt to influence the share price of the troubled company.

Dankner had sunk into massive debt with the banks and hit a brick wall trying to raise cash or get further loans.

Former Chairman of IDB Group Nochi Dankner leaves his home in Herzliya as he makes his way to Ma’asiyahu Prison on October 2, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

IDB accrued millions of dollars in debt following a series of bad business deals. The courts wrested control of IDB from Dankner as a result.

Dankner, a favorite of Israel’s business community, was often credited with helping rescue the country’s economy at the height of the Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s. Under his leadership, IDB became Israel’s largest holding company and Dankner a celebrity.

Dankner had been given a two-year prison sentence in 2016. His co-defendant, Itay Strum, owner of a company that managed assets for wealthy families, received a one-year sentence.

However, both men appealed their sentence, and in its ruling in August the court increased Dankner’s sentence to three years and Strum’s to two years.

The Ma’asiyahu Prison complex in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy/Israel Prisons Service)

Dankner — once one of the richest men in Israel — was also given a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of NIS 800,000 ($209,000).

In the ruling, Judge David Mintz said that the pair’s actions had harmed public confidence in the stock market, adding that it increased suspicion that trading prices for securities do not accurately reflect the economic activity of the economy or the market.

The judges said that they felt the initial sentence was not commensurate with the severity of the crimes.

During his original trial, Dankner did not deny his “failures and poor decisions,” but tried unsuccessfully to convince the court that his actions had not been criminal. He tried to put much of the blame for IDB’s collapse on reforms in the cellular market introduced by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in his previous cabinet role of communications minister.

AP contributed to this report.

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